Thursday, June 29, 2017

Nokia – IP networks re-imagined

Recently we have seen Cisco predict that busy hour global IP traffic will grow 4.6-fold (35% CAGR) from 2016 to 2021, reaching 4.3 Pb/s by 2021, compared to average Internet traffic that will grow 3.2-fold (26% CAGR) over the same period to reach 717 Tb/s by 2021. The latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, released earlier this week, calculates that the total traffic in mobile networks increased by 70% between the end of Q1 2016 and the end of Q1 2017. And now, Nokia Bell Labs has just announced its own prediction: IP traffic will more than double in the next five years, reaching 330 exabytes per month by 2022 while growing at a 25% CAGR. The company anticipates that peak data rates will grow even faster at nearly 40% annually. Nokia Bell Labs also predicts that 3D/4K/UHD will experience a 4.79x growth from 2017 – 22, that wireless traffic will experience 7.5x growth from 2017 – 22, and that worldwide IoT devices to grow from 12bn in 2017 to 100bn in 2025.

Nokia unveils next gen networking processing engine

Nokia's processing engine sets the stage for perhaps the most significant announcement from the company since the merger of Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Siemens Networks in 2015. In a press event entitled 'IP networks reimagined', Nokia unveiled its FP4 silicon, featuring the 'first' 2.4 Tbit/s network processor, up to 6x more powerful than processors currently available. The proprietary chipset is designed for a new class of petabit-class routers.

Core routers traditionally have been the 'big iron' that powers the heart of the Internet. It is a product category dominated by Cisco, Huawei, Juniper and Nokia, including via its existing 7950 XRS routing platform. However, the market has been in flux. Earlier this month, Dell’Oro Group reported a significant break in Q1 17 with Huawei taking the top spot from Cisco in the core router market for the first time. The report also found Huawei taking over second spot from Nokia in the SP edge router and CES market. The primary reason cited for this shift is that the SP core routing business is only growing at a low single-digit rate, while China Mobile is defying the trend with significant investments in their IP core backbone, for which Huawei is the lead supplier. Nevertheless, the overall predictions for rapid growth in IP traffic over the coming five years makes it more likely that service providers will need a significant refresh of their core backbones to handle hundreds of 100 or 400 Gbit/s connections at major nodes.

Nokia's previous generation FP3 chipset, unveiled by Alcatel-Lucent in June 2011 and launched in 2012, packed 288 RISC cores operating at 1 GHz and leveraged 40 nm process technology; the FP2 chipset offered 112 cores at 840 MHz and was built in 90 nm. This network processor lineage can be traced back to TiMetra Networks, a start-up based in Mountain View, California that launched its first carrier-class routing platforms in 2003.

TiMetra, which was headed by Basil Alwan, was acquired by Alcatel-Lucent later in 2003 for approximately $150 million in stock. The product line went on to become the highly successful 7450, 7750 and eventually 7950 carrier platforms - the basis for the IP division at Alcatel-Lucent. Not bad for an idea from a small start-up to grow into the star platform underpinning all of Alcatel-Lucent + Nokia Siemens Networks.

In a launch day webcast, Basil Alwan, now president of Nokia's IP/Optical Networks business group, said we are moving into a new phase of the Internet requiring 'cloud-scale routing'. First, he noted that there is market confusion between Internet-class routers and core data centre switches, which are being used to power the hyperscale infrastructure of the Internet content providers. High-end, data centre spine switches are capable of routing packets at high rates and can handle access control lists (ACLs). Likewise, conventional big iron core routers can switch data flows, and are sometimes deployed in data centres. However, there have been tradeoffs when this role reversal happens. Nokia's new FP4 chipset aims to fix that.

First multi-terabit NPU silicon

Six years have passed since the FP3, or roughly two cycles in the evolution of Moore's Law, so naturally one would expect the new silicon to be smaller, faster and more powerful and efficient. But Alwan said the company took its time to rethink how the packet processing works at the silicon level. To begin with, Nokia redesigned the onboard memory, employing 2.5D and 3D layouts on 16 nm Fin Field Effect Transistor (FinFET) technology. The single chip contains 22 dies, including memory stacks and control logic. It runs at 2.4 Tbit/s half-duplex, or 6x more capacity than the current generation 400 Gbit/s FP3 chipset. The FP4 will support full terabit IP flows. All conventional routing capabilities are included. Deep classification capabilities include enhanced packet intelligence and control, policy controls, telemetry and security.

The FP4 could be used to provide an in-service upgrade to Nokia's current line of core routers and carrier switches. It will also be used to power a new family of 7750 SR-s series routers designed for single-node, cloud scale density. In terms of specs, the SR-s boasts a 144 Tbit/s configuration supporting port densities of up to 144 future terabit links, 288 x 400 Gbit/s ports, or 1,440 100 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Absolute capacity could be doubled for a maximum of 288 Tbit/s configuration. It runs the same software as the company's widely-deployed systems. The first 7750 SR-s boxes are already running in Nokia labs and the first commercial shipments are expected in Q4.

Nokia is also introducing a chassis extension option to push its router into petabit territory. Without using the switching shelf concept employed in the multi-chassis designs of its competitors, Nokia is offering the means to integrate up to six of its 7750 SRS-s routers into a single system. This results in 576 Tbit/s of capacity, enough for densities of up to 2,880 x 100 GBE ports or 720 x 400 Gbit/s ports. Adding up the numbers, it is not truly petabit-class, but at 576 Tbit/s it is more than halfway there.

Network telemetry leads to security
Another interesting twist concerns security and petabit-class routing. In December 2016, Nokia agreed to acquire Deepfield, a start-up specialising in real-time analytics for IP network performance management and security. Deepfield, founded in 2011 and based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has developed an analytics platform that identifies over 30,000 popular cloud applications and services. Its Internet Genome tracks how traffic runs to and through networks to reach subscribers, in real time, and without the need for probes, taps and monitors in the network itself. At the time of the deal, Nokia said it would integrate Deepfield big data analytics with the dynamic control capabilities of open SDN platforms, such as the Nokia Network Services Platform (NSP) and Nuage Networks Virtualized Services Platform (VSP).

Expanding on this idea, Alwan said Deepfield can really leverage the routers rather than probes to understand what is happening to the traffic. Fewer probes mean lower investment. More importantly, Deepfield could be used to track DDoS attacks passing through the core of the network rather than at the edge destination target. The new FP4 silicon is said to be a very good match for this application.

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