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Intel NFV: Company eyes virtualized networking market

In our latest roundup of SDN blogs, analysts explore Intel's expansion into networking, visibility in virtualized environments and the cost benefits of deploying SD-WAN.

Network engineer and blogger Greg Ferro recently attended the Intel Data Center Group conference in Portland, Ore., where he learned that Intel is moving aggressively into the network functions virtualization (NFV) sphere. He reveals details of the Intel NFV strategy in a recent post on his Ethereal Mind blog.

Ferro reports that the company is hoping to spur the development of virtualized network technologies -- partly to increase demand for its x86 CPUs. Because Intel sees the networking market sector as poised for explosive growth, it is also positioning itself to play a leading role in the evolution of virtualized networks.

The evolving Intel NFV approach is multipronged, with the company contributing to OpenStack and OpenDaylight, as well as setting up a partnership program of major players, including Ericsson and Cisco. Intel is also specially designing silicon for next-generation networks and taking part in proof-of-concept (POC) trials. Ferro views the participation in POC trials as a surprising move, given that Intel has historically worked with vendor partners, rather than directly with end users. He speculates that the company wants a front-row view of the POC results.

What does seem clear is that Intel -- traditionally a hardware company -- is increasingly interested in what software can do for networking, and what networking can do for Intel.

See more of what Ferro has to say about the Intel NFV strategy and the company's move into networking.

Why visibility matters in a virtualized network

"Virtualization is on the rise, and network management and security visibility is falling!" proclaims Bob Pothier, a senior technical manager at visibility vendor Uila Inc., based in Santa Clara, Calif., in a recent post on Love My Tool. In the networking industry, he writes, virtualization has gone from buzzword to reality in recent years, with upwards of 86% of servers expected to be virtualized by 2016. Business and mission-critical applications are next in line. Unfortunately, as Pothier points out, virtualization can also make systems more complicated and less transparent.

If virtualization tools don't offer complete visibility into network infrastructure and applications, performance issues will require time-consuming troubleshooting, Pothier writes. That can be especially problematic when a problem crosses organizational siloes.

He says that application-aware, infrastructure performance management tools can help, allowing for visualization, analysis and optimization of network resources. In other words, it's not enough to be virtual; a network must also be visible.

See what else Pothier has to say about virtualization and why he recommends network visibility products, such as one from Uila -- where he is a senior technical manager.

Assessing the costs of SD-WAN deployment

In a recent white paper sponsored by CloudGenix Inc., Packet Pushers bloggers Drew Conry-Murray and Ethan Banks delve into software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), touching on how much money the technology could save users. For most organizations, they write, hard cost savings are comparatively easy to calculate. For instance, enterprises can typically save money by eliminating private MPLS WANs -- using cheaper public Internet connections -- and removing routers.

Conry-Murray and Banks note, however, that other "soft" financial benefits are harder to calculate. SD-WAN proponents say that virtualized networks need less hands-on configuration time, reduce the likelihood of human error and require the attention of fewer hyperspecialized network engineers, adding up to significant savings over time. Performance data and analytics are also more readily available in a software-defined environment, expediting the elimination of network inefficiencies.

Read more about how they think SD-WAN technology can save users money.

Next Steps

Server virtualization: How to survive and thrive 

Intel plays a key role in SDN

Virtualization poses many visibility challenges

Dig Deeper on Network automation and intent-based networking

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