ARM, Partners Demonstrate NFV Reference Platforms

At the NFV World Congress, ARM is teaming with Enea, Applied Micro and Netzyn to show off platforms for OPNFV and virtual set-top boxes.


ARM is continuing its push into the networking space, partnering this week with Linux embedded software provider Enea to show off an early developer release of an ARM-based reference platform for network-functions virtualization environments.

The two companies are offering the demonstration during the NFV World Congress show in San Jose, Calif., which runs through May 8. Also at the show, ARM and chip maker Applied Micro, along with server software maker Netzyn, announced a virtual set-top box (vSTB) reference architecture that uses NFV capabilities that ARM officials said will help drive down the capital and operational expenses for network operators.

ARM is best known for its architecture for low-power systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) that are found in most smartphones and tablets. ARM designs the architecture, then licenses it to such chip makers as Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia, which put their own technologies into the mix and sell the chips. ARM-based chips also can be found in embedded systems, wearable technology and Internet of things (IoT) devices, and chip makers are beginning to make a push into the server space.

ARM officials in February talked about the growing role that ARM-based products are having in the networking space, including switches, routers, wireless access points and set-top boxes. The company also has become active in industry groups, including the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV).

The ARM-based reference architecture is designed for OPNFV, and will improve choice and processor efficiency across the NFV space, according to company officials. The goal is to create an application-ready platform that is based on ARM's architecture and work from the OpenDaylight Project—another open-source effort to create a standard framework for NFV and software-defined networking (SDN)—and will bring greater flexibility, scalability and automation to enterprise and carrier networks.

"This is a tremendous leap forward in delivering the NFV vision across a wide range of highly-integrated, workload-optimized ARM-based networking SoCs, available via the common OpenDataPlane (ODP) interface layer," Charlene Marini, vice president of embedded marketing at ARM, said in a statement. "This application-ready platform is also the enabling layer for the Intelligent Flexible Cloud framework that will transform network infrastructure over the next decade."

The demonstration at NFV World Congress shows a "functional NFV platform running on ARM server hardware," Joe Kidder, director of Enea's Element middleware product, wrote in a post on the ARM blog. "The demo shows that the platform, consisting of the two blocks labeled NFVI (NFV Infrastructure) and VIM (Virtual Infrastructure Manager), provide the required behavior on which to host Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) that are interconnected with virtual networks. It also shows instantiation and termination of virtual network services (i.e. interconnected VNFs). The VNFs themselves just need to verify that they're running and that they're interconnected as requested."

According to ARM officials, the building blocks for the platform include the OpenDaylight technology, OpenStack cloud orchestration software, Open vSwitch and KVM hypervisor.

The virtual set-top box platform developed with Applied Micro and Netzyn runs on cloud servers powered by Applied Micro's X-Gene server SoC. The demonstration is designed to show the performance and cost advantages that can be gained by service providers when they leverage NFV and cloud capabilities on the ARM architecture, according to officials. In addition, they said the end-user experience also is improved.

"Pay-TV subscribers care about rich user interfaces (UIs) with responsive performance," Karthik Ranjan, director of operator relations at ARM, said in a statement. "Migrating STB functionality from a standalone box to a remote server talking directly with your TV saves significant cost, energy and materials with no material impact on UI performance."