Intel Labs Finds a Way to Create Routers Using Clustered Servers

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-05-03 Print this article Print

Key to the redeployment of unused, commodity-type servers is an open source software package called Click Router, developed at MIT a decade ago, which the Intel researchers have used to tie the servers together for their new roles in the data center.

Intel Labs said May 3 that it has come up with a way to reuse and/or reconfigure commodity-type servers and cluster them in such a way as to turn them into data center routers.

Intel researchers, led by Gianluca Iannaccone and Sylvia Ratnasamy, have coined the phrase "router bricks" for the reused servers, which are designed to put servers that may be out of commission -- or new units not being used right away -- to work in new capacities, thus saving capital expenses for IT departments.

Key to the redeployment of these machines is an open source software package called Click Router, developed at MIT a decade ago, which the Intel researchers have used to tie the servers together for their new roles in the data center.

Router bricks are a high-speed router using off-the-shelf IA [Intel architecture] servers. They are fully programmable [control and data plane], extensible in that they evolve networks via software upgrade, and incrementally scalable at flat cost per bit, Iannaccone told eWEEK.

"These are a first step toward flexible network infrastructure," Iannaccone said. "We are currently pursuing the application of RB to data centers, where they will help in content delivery, network power management and next-gen Internet routing."

These create networks that are simpler to use and cheaper to evolve, Iannaccone told eWEEK.
"Programmers can rapidly build and reprogram networks using the hardware and software they're most familiar with. They [also] can decouple network software and hardware and avoid the cost of specialized hardware development," Iannaccone said.

The main reason this can be done at this time is the emergence of Intel's multi-core Nehalem chips, which provide the bandwidth and gigbit speed for these router bricks to perform at enterprise levels, Iannaccone said.

"The router bricks demonstrate that any number of servers can achieve switching speeds of N ??? R bits-per-second, provided each server can process packets at a rate between 2R-3R bps," Iannaccone said.

"The Nehalem chips have the power to do this. We couldn't have done this before."

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Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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