Freescale Unveils Switch Platform for SDN, NFV

The chip maker is working with ODM Advantech to offer the switch as a white-box appliance that includes Freescale products with open technologies.


Freescale Semiconductor is launching a network switching platform that combines the performance benefits of traditional switches with newer network virtualization technologies that promise greater manageability and flexibility.

The trends in networking are moving rapidly toward software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV), with an increasing emphasis on security for these highly virtualized environments, according to Sam Fuller, head of strategy and solutions for Freescale's Digital Networking Group.

Freescale's new platform combines the chip maker's 24-core QorIQ T4240 processor and VortiQa Open Network software while also embracing open protocols like OpenFlow and open technologies such as the OpenStack cloud orchestration stack and OpenDaylight SDN and NFV framework.

For security, the platform includes integrated capabilities such as firewalls, intrusion detection and IPSEC-over-VXLAN.

Freescale is developing the platform in conjunction with Advantech, an original design manufacturer, and will deliver it as a white-box top-of-rack switch. The trend toward software-defined data center infrastructures—not only networking, but also servers and storage—has fueled the growth in demand for white boxes, which essentially are commodity systems that can run disparate software from other vendors. For some organizations, white box solutions enable them to run whatever software they want and to reduce the higher capital and operational expenses associated with traditional, more proprietary systems from brand-name vendors.

Top-tier OEMs like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks are pushing back with what Gartner analysts are calling brite boxes—branded networking hardware that can run software from third-party vendors.

"A lot of the white-box value is building a low-cost box to deploy," Fuller told eWEEK. "It's certainly an important part of the industry, but it's not the entire industry."

However, it is a part of the industry that Freescale is looking to grow in. SDN and NFV continue to grow. Infonetics Research analysts predict that worldwide sales of SDN and NFV hardware and software will grow from less than $500 million in 2013 to more than $11 billion in 2018, with NFV representing the bulk of the market between 2014 and 2018.

The demand for more programmable, agile and affordable infrastructures comes as organizations look to deal with the growing amount of traffic running over their networks and such trends as greater mobility, cloud computing and social networking. A recent Infonetics survey found that of 153 large and midsize businesses in North America interviewed, 79 percent are planning to have SDN in production in their data centers by 2017.

With Freescale's platform, not only will organizations save money by using a less expensive white-box system, but they also will need fewer networking appliances than in traditional network infrastructures, according to officials.

The platform brings together the QorIQ processors and standard switch ASIC devices, as well as a Linux operating system, an OpenDaylight datapath API and commercial-grade VortiQa SDN software, which supports OpenFlow version 1.3 with extensions for Layer 4 and above protocols and Layer 2/3 forwarding.

It will be available via Advantech, and organizations will be able to customize it to fit their needs. The platform will be shipping to first customers in the second half of the year, and Freescale officials will be demonstrating the solution at the Interop 2015 show in Las Vegas next week.

The new offering comes as NXP Semiconductors plans to buy Freescale for $11.8 billion.