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Vyatta readies for virtual machine explosion

CEO Kelly Herrell and Vyatta look to exploit x86 architecture for branch, cloud VMs

By , Network World
April 04, 2011 09:10 AM ET
Kelly Herrell

Network World - Vyatta wants to turn the network hardware world on its head by delivering Layer-3-and-up network functions on standard Intel x86 hardware, achieving breathtaking cost savings. The side benefit of that approach: the ability to deliver the same functions as virtual machines, which has perhaps even bigger implications. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix recently caught up with Vyatta CEO Kelly Herrell to see where he sees all this going.

You're out to shake up the network world. Give us the back story.

We started off with the belief that networking from Layer 3 up is really a CPU problem and commercial, off-the-shelf x86 hardware was ready to drive a hole in the center of the traditional network hardware market. What was needed was a fully functioning network operating system that could sit on that and give people an open alternative to propriety products. And based on the commercial and the community uptake of our offering I would say we were right. And it is getting even better. The x86 architecture is rapidly becoming a superior price/performance hardware alternative in networking; the packet processing performance on x86 increased 100X in the last four years.

When you say x86, any particular flavor?

Say a 1U Dell server with a Xeon processor. It could be single-socket, dual-socket. But when you can offer the ability to run networking on server infrastructure your range of options is massive. It could be anything from a low-end Taiwanese x86 box, all the way up to an HP Blade Server. The bottom line is, all we need is a single-socket Xeon, and with that we can scale up to 10 Gig. You can buy a single-socket Xeon server for less than $2,000 and a 10 Gig card costs about $1,500.

I have an appreciation for the business models [of the existing suppliers like Cisco, but they were] built in the older world. In those business models the pricing for network boxes is kind of logarithmic. If you want to go from 1 Gig to 10 Gig you are going to be spending a lot more money. Whereas if you want to go from 1 Gig to 10 Gig in the server world, it is a pretty flat curve. They are really different.

So what we have been doing is leveraging that. And every six months our price performance gets better, because that's how fast Intel is increasing performance.

ANNIVERSARY: Happy birthday, x86! An industry standard turns 30

A lot of people remember Intel used to have a network processor business unit and then they sold it a couple of years ago. And that's when people said, "Oh, Intel is getting out of the network processing business." (Laughter) But it turned out not to be true. Intel had figured out how to fold that networking functionality into standard x86 architectures. If you went to the Intel developer forum in San Francisco last year, there were something like 10 or 12 tracks on network performance on x86 -- cloud networking, high-speed networking, etc. 2010 was the year Intel showed the world they were serious about the network workload running on servers.

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