AMD Demos ARM-Based NFV Solution

At ARM's TechCon show, AMD officials are showing what they can offer with chips based on both the ARM and x86 architectures.

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Advanced Micro Devices is looking to extend its ambitions around ARM-based processors beyond servers and into the networking world.

At ARM's TechCon 2014 this week in Santa Clara, Calif., AMD officials are showed off a network-functions virtualization (NFV) solution that is being powered by the vendor's ARM-based 64-bit Embedded R-Series system-on-a-chip, code-named "Hierofalcon." The demonstration also was used to highlight what AMD can offer by building chips based on both the ARM and x86 architectures, an ability unique to the company.

During the event, AMD showed a live traffic migration between an ARM-based Embedded R-Series SOC and an x86 R-Series chip. The demonstration showcased the breadth and reach of AMD's chip capabilities, according to Scott Aylor, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD's Embedded Solutions unit.

Such capabilities are increasingly important in the telecommunications industry, where companies are looking to embrace NFV as a way of making their networking infrastructures more flexible, agile and cost-effective, Aylor said.

"Demonstrated by our first NFV demo on a 64-bit ARM-based SoC, AMD is moving forward with new ARM and x86 solutions that offer OEMs and telecommunications providers innovative ways to more cost-effectively design, deploy and manage networking services," he said in a statement.

More people are using more mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for communications and content, including content that increasingly is video-based. Such trends are putting more pressure on telecommunications companies to keep ensuring that their networks can respond to the changing demands and that they can keep offering services that customers will pay for.

Enterprises and service provides are moving to adopt new technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and NFV to meet these demands. SDN moves the control plane from expensive and complex physical networking gear and puts it into software. At the same time, NFV takes networking tasks like load balancing and intrusion detection and makes them into software applications that can run on commodity hardware running standard silicon like x86 chips from Intel and AMD or ARM-based chips.

Chip makers like Intel and AMD are pushing to offer chips that can handle the network traffic and compete with those specialized networking silicon products from the likes of Freescale, Broadcom and Cisco Systems. AMD is looking to leverage the ARM architecture to help with its efforts. AMD already is working on ARM-based chips—in its Opteron A1100 "Seattle" family—for servers. Hierofalcon, which AMD officials first introduced in September 2013, is aimed at embedded systems in such areas as communications, networking and storage.

"The NFV solution on AMD's 64-bit ARM-based 'Hierofalcon' SoC delivers efficient platforms to accommodate the growing demands of subscribers and operators alike," Charlene Marini, vice president of marketing for the embedded segment at ARM, said in a statement.

For the demonstration, AMD is collaborating with software maker Aricent and Mentor Graphics for its embedded Linux operating system and tools. The Hierofalcon platform offers up to eight ARM 64-bit Cortex-A57 CPUs and includes two 64-bit DDR3/4 channels, error correction code (ECC) and security via ARM's TrustZone technology. It will ship in the first half of 2015.

The NFV demonstration comes the same week that AMD officials at the JavaOne 2014 show in San Francisco showed off a server powered by the company's Seattle chip running Hadoop.