Unlike the HP Moonshot server announcement earlier this month, which was supposed to feature the ARM CPU but didn’t, LSI’s Axxia 4500 family of communication processors is ARM technology-based. While LSI has been using ARM technology in its mobile communications processors, this is the industry’s first communication processor featuring ARM A15 core to optimize performance and power efficiency for mega-datacenters, software-defined networks (SDN) and Open Flow environments, said Troy Bailey, Director of Marketing. ARM, the British chip architecture firm – spun off from Acorn Computers – is responsible for powering the vast majority of mobile phones and tablets, and its technologies were used by more than 300 semiconductor customers in nearly 9 billion chips last year.
With sampling due to start in Q4, the new Axxia line is intended to accelerate network performance while supporting increasing traffic loads, as well as evolving SDN. LSI said SDN will require high levels of secure communication between SDN controllers and network elements such as switches and routers, and Axxia packet processing and security accelerators are ideally suited to process secure communications for SDN protocols like OpenFlow. The flexibility of these programmable accelerators should provide a performance advantage in traditional networks, full SDN systems and hybrid environments, valuable as networks transition to SDN technology, the company stated.
The Axxia 4500 processors include up to four ARM Cortex-A15 cores with a CoreLink CCN-504 coherent, QoS aware interconnect in 28nm process technology, as well as up to 100Gb/s of L2 switching function to reduce board space and bill of material costs. The company said the addition of its Virtual Pipeline technology allows equipment developers the ability to essentially reconfigure the processors for optimal performance on a packet-by-packet basis.
Primarily targeted at switching and routing applications from branch offices and datacenters, Bailey said the 4500 line is starting with 2 and 4 cores, but will eventually scale up to 16 cores. With its strong background in networking, LSI is also paying close attention to SDN, although he doesn’t expect it to be deployed in datacenters overnight.
In December IDC reported that the SDN market for the enterprise and cloud service provider segments is forecast to grow from $360 million in 2013 to $3.7 billion by 2016. “SDN’s ability to decouple network logic and policies from the underlying network equipment allows for a more programmable network,” said Rohit Mehra, Vice President, Network Infrastructure. “Providing better alignment with the underlying applications, this programmability allows for greater levels of flexibility, innovation, and control in the network. Logic and policies that can be defined, changed, and modified result in a more dynamic network, providing the scale network administrators so desperately crave.”