It isn’t obvious to most of us as we use the Internet, but there is a lot of networking equipment between your computer or phone and your favorite site. Base stations, routers, switches, load balancers, computers, in aggregate there are millions of systems upon which the Internet is built. There is a program that is available on most computers called traceroute that provides a list of every piece of network equipment or computer that a request would go through between your computer or phone and a website or service that you are using. When I run this command, I usually find several dozen pieces of equipment that my requests travel through. What’s also amazing is that the time it takes a request to travel through these dozens of pieces of equipment is generally measured in hundredths of seconds. Each of these pieces of networking equipment includes multicore processors, sometimes many, that run networking software and are used to control the flow of Internet traffic.
ARM recently announced its vision of a future network infrastructure, called the Intelligent Flexible Cloud (IFC) based on diverse, scalable, highly-integrated system-on-chips (SoC) with heterogeneous compute capabilities supported by a common layer of enabling software running on multicore processor based SoCs and distributed network intelligence. This vision aligns closely to the vision that we have articulated for our QorIQ LS series multicore communications processor products.
The driving force of this new approach to networking is the constantly evolving Internet. Even just 10 years ago the Internet was still mostly used for reading static web pages. Now it is becoming the primary way we watch TV programs and movies and the way we communicate with each other with our mobile phones. In the not too distant future, we expect that most of our household appliances, automobiles and even our bodies (we call this the Internet of Tomorrow) will also be connected to and communicating over the Internet.
As the Internet has evolved into a distribution medium for commerce, entertainment, social networking, mobile applications and things generally, it is being asked to do things that were not envisioned when it was first created. This has led to significant ongoing capital spending to both add new capacity and also respond to new types of service requirements created by ever changing usage of the Internet. Companies, like AT&T and Verizon, that buy a lot of the networking equipment needed to build the Internet, are now looking for more flexible solutions that, once installed, will be able to evolve and add new functions and perhaps remove old functions without necessarily needing to buy new equipment. They are also looking for equipment that will be easier to configure and operate and that can be more intelligently managed.
The Intelligent Flexible Cloud provides the approach that best meets the needs of the next generation Internet. IFC combines the flexibility of software in the form of software defined networking and network functions virtualization (SDN and NFV), with the cost effectiveness and performance improvements that come from the use of targeted system on chip (SoC) devices. The IFC steps beyond pure software approaches because pure software approaches to moving Internet data are non-optimal and inherently inefficient. By combining software with dedicated hardware based acceleration the IFC approach provides the optimal combination of flexibility and performance that the industry seeks.
We have anticipated the requirements for more flexible, powerful and cost effective networking equipment and has developed a new product line based on the ARM 64-bit processor architecture coupled to a powerful set of hardware acceleration built on the IFC principles. These new devices enable the development of next generation systems that will meet the demanding needs of the Internet of Tomorrow.
Image used by permission from ARM Holdings.