Open source hardware

Saku Ytti saku at
Fri Jan 3 13:33:56 UTC 2014

On (2014-01-03 07:48 -0500), Ray Soucy wrote:
> Juniper is a FreeBSD shop, and Cisco's new OS lines are based on Linux.
>  Ciena is largely based on Linux as well.  In poking around at these
> platforms recently one of the big things I'm noticing is that there is a
> lot less done in hardware than we traditionally saw, especially from Cisco.

I'm not sure which platforms you refer to. But if we look at SP segment we're
talking about JNPR M, MX, T, PTX or Cisco ASR9k, NCS6k, CRS-1.

JNPR is indeed FreeBSD, but FreeBSD is used very sparsely, to boot box up and
to run RPD, which is essentially router-control-plane-in-a-process, it runs
all routing protocols and configures hardware.
ASR9k, CRS-1 run IOS-XR on QNX and NCS6k on Linux and there at least Cisco
capitalizes on OS scheduling, it's not single fat process on top of OS.

All of these boxes do all packet pushing in NPU (ezchip, trio, ichip...)

For IOS XE boxes, it's almost same as JNPR, except instead of single process
single threaded RPD, IOSd is actually running several threads.

> by under-sizing and over-pricing their CPUs for years.  But when you have a
> modern server-grade platform, multi-Gigabit performance, even with
> significant levels of packet processing and small packet sizes, is a joke.
>  So at least for the low end of the spectrum there is a huge savings for
> equal (often better) performance.

Low end has always been using COTS CPU, RISC, PPC etc, so not much has changed
there. For low end, linux pc can be competitive in some applications.

> With the new Intel DPDK stuff, Intel is claiming 80M PPS performance on a
> standard Xeon platform:

DPDK is super interesting and it shows Intel is looking at the NPU market,
unfortunately these numbers have nothing to do with real-life application,
lookup against million+ routes, ACLs, QoS etc.
But maybe not in too distant future x86 Intel is usable as NPU, Intel seems to
be looking NPU market demands when designing new x86 chips.

Right now, if you need perfomance, you're going to have to buy something like
bcom chip and then cumulusnetworks linux on top of it, it's as close to 'open
source' as you're going to get with good performance.
And this is more or less DC stuff, SP market needs more intelligent chips than
those ASICs, and I don't think there anything 'open source' in the market
place for NPU stuff.


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