Killer Apps for SDN/NFV - Virtual EPC and Network Slicing

By Nick Tausanovitch | Mar 17, 2016

Last week I attended the MPLS + SDN + NFV World Congress in Paris. At the conference, Netronome participated in a joint demonstration with Ericsson in their booth, showing the use of our Agilio CX SmartNIC to offload and accelerate L3 VPN service with Ericsson's Cloud SDN solution. The demonstration showed over a 20X throughput improvement with normalized CPU resources. This translates into an 80% TCO savings in the data center for NFV workloads, when implemented on standard servers with Agilio CX adapters, compared to traditional server adapters. For more detail about the demo and TCO analysis, please see the Ericsson Cloud SDN with Netronome Agilio Server Networking Platform Achieves Massive Gains in Cloud Data Centers Solution Brief.

So now that the throughput improvement and data center cost savings have been established and quantified, what about the practical applications that can really benefit from these improvements? One of the key areas that received a lot of attention during the conference was mobile networks, both existing as well as future 5G implementations. In existing networks, the move to network functions virtualization has already begun, with virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) gateway functions leading the way. To learn more on how Netronome's Agilio adapters can help improve performance and lower cost for vEPC applications, see our white paper, Accelerating 4G Network Performance.

What I learned at several outstanding talks at the congress was that upcoming 5G deployments will take things a step further, by allowing the mobile backhaul and core networks to be dynamically carved into multiple virtual networks, or “slices," to support a wide range of services and use cases, all running on the same common infrastructure. This end-to-end network slicing under SDN control is the next big "killer app" for SmartNICs such as Agilio. This is because all of the virtualized network functions that are aggregated into service chains and assigned to network slices under SDN control will benefit from acceleration and offload of processing functions such as overlay tunneling, network service header processing, and accelerated virtual switching and routing that Agilio SmartNICs excel at!