Upgrading from 1G to 25/40/100G and Beyond

Exponential growth in demand for high bandwidth applications and services, such as video, streaming and multimedia, in networks has triggered the need for development of new technologies capable of providing the required high-bandwidth, reliable links in mobile environments.

The ongoing growth of traffic moving through the interconnected world is driving a continuous upgrade cycle for equipment in the data path and control network. For home and business subscribers, gigabit connectivity per termination is now in reach. This drives the upgrade cycle, which touches all the sub-systems of the network element.

Whether the data path is primarily mobile backhaul, Metro Ethernet, or GPON, it is likely to have somewhere within it, an Ethernet switching component. One of the most common upgrades of this component is the move from 10G to 25/40/100G.

The upgrade started with the switching silicon. Generally, the change of switching silicon will also trigger software changes. These may include an upgrade of the switch SDK, the control processor hardware, the control plane OS, and whatever version of L2/L3 protocol stacks are running on the hardware. These low-level changes can require substantial development resources.

When, for example, Broadcom switching silicon is found in the Ethernet infrastructure, the move to 25/40/100 G will include an upgrade of the Broadcom switch to Trident II, Trident II+, Tomahawk or Qumran MX/AX/UX. This means that a version of the Broadcom SDK that supports one of the latest chips will also be needed – another upgrade. There is typically Layer 2 and Layer 3 control plane software. Examples of this software layer would be Broadcom’s FASTPATH® or Metaswitch’s Network Interconnect. Most likely this software was dependent on an earlier version of the SDK and will also need to be upgraded.

Since the switch hardware has been changed, the platform vendor may choose a new multi-core processor to improve performance, reduce power, or decrease component cost. Once the control processor is selected, a version of the OS that supports all of the software upgrades listed above will have to be selected. All of the low-level hardware and software needs to be integrated and tested.

Where this upgrade process can get tricky is at the application layer. The application layer will typically have been designed to be largely independent of the bandwidth provided by the underlying hardware. Its user interface and features will be well known to users and operations personnel. It will have been thoroughly tested by QA. In short, it may be a requirement that the upper layers of the application undergo no modification whatsoever. This dictates that an interface between the application layer and the lower layers of the software will have to be developed, isolating the application layers from those changes.

At the end of the upgrade cycle, the users and administrators still have a familiar look and feel to the service. However, the bandwidth has been increased by as much as a factor of 10x. This enables the delivery of more data to more people in a constrained cost and power envelope. Using IP Infusion’s development resources, highly skilled in networking hardware and software, the entire upgrade cycle was accomplished in a timely and cost-effective manner.