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Date: 01-04-14

FPGA powered data plane programmability

Xilinx is offering FPGA design solution for the new emerging telecom technology called "Softly" Defined Networks, where the data plane is also made programmable. The design of the programmable data plane functions is enabled by the new Software Defined Specification Environment for Networking (SDNet), with functional specifications automatically compiled into Xilinx's All Programmable FPGAs and SoCs.

Xilinx explains in contrast to traditional SDN architectures, which employ fixed data plane hardware with a narrow southbound API connection to the control plane, Softly Defined Networks are based upon a programmable data plane with content-intelligence and a rich southbound API control plane connection. This enables multiple disruptive capabilities including:
Support of wire speed services that are independent of protocol complexity
Provisioning of per-flow, flexible services
Support for revolutionary in-service "hitless" upgrades while operating at 100 percent line rate

Benefits to telecom service provider as per Xilinx:
These unique capabilities enable carriers and MSOs to dynamically provision unique, differentiated services without any interruption to the existing service or the need for hardware requalification or truck roll. This provides service providers higher revenue potential with unprecedented CapEx, OpEx, and time to market savings. Network equipment providers realize similar benefits from the feature rich, flexible Softly Defined Network platform which allows for extensive differentiation through the deployment of content-aware data plane hardware that is programmed with the SDNet environment.

Additional benefits of Softly Defined Network solutions enabled by SDNet and Xilinx All Programmable FPGAs and SoCs include:
Improved, highly flexible Quality of Service (QoS)
Flow and session aware capabilities
Fully programmable hardware data plane and I/O
Support for NFV at wire speed including user defined, custom capabilities
Scalable line rates from 1G to 400G

"The first phase of SDN (Software Defined Networking) enables data center and WAN operators to customize and improve their network in software. In the next phase, we can expect a drive beyond fixed-function hardware data planes. Adding high-level programmability and more sophisticated functionality to the data plane, accessed via standard software APIs, means that networking resources will be managed more intelligently and efficiently, increasing the rate of innovation," said Nick McKeown, professor of computer science at Stanford University.

"Xilinx's introduction of a software defined specification environment to create and modify network elements from high-level descriptions carries implications far beyond OpenFlow protocol-compatible SDN," said Loring Wirbel, senior analyst at The Linley Group. "Significant characteristics of both control plane and data plane processing can be defined at the time the network node is established. This type of tool, which allows system architects to specify and deploy exact application services without requiring an understanding of the underlying device architecture or a complex programming language, has not been offered by device manufacturers, OEMs, or SDN software specialists to date."

"Xilinx is combining new software based design technologies with All Programmable silicon devices to expand the possibilities for next generation smarter networks and data centers," said Hemant Dhulla, vice president, communications business unit at Xilinx. "The revolutionary flexibility, capabilities, and productivity afforded by SDNet, in conjunction with the flexibility of Xilinx's All Programmable devices deliver the industry's first software defined data plane solution for Softly Defined Networks."

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