Networks are crucial for businesses, but traditional high-performance designs come at a high cost. Virtualizing the network functions on a common hardware platform simplifies the process but hurts performance. Microchip's WinPath family of SoCs offers a solution that balances both approaches with a family of data-path processors that integrate a general-purpose Central Processing Unit (CPU) for control-plane and management-plane processing and a programmable network processor for packet processing and interworking protocols.
The Role of Networks in Every Business
Networks are the backbone of every business, regardless of the industry. In today's industrial landscape, networks play a crucial role in connecting various segments and terminals together. Different types of networks are designed to connect terminals and endpoints for telecommunications and industrial applications. Each type of network design has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
The conventional network design often involves the use of multiple, specialized hardware devices that can be costly to develop, build and maintain. This approach can lead to a high-performance network, but at a significant cost.
To combat the cost problem, data centers have adopted the approach of virtualizing network functions on a common hardware platform using general-purpose servers. These servers, such as x86, are capable of performing all classes of network node functions. This process, known as Network Virtualization, simplifies the design implementation process, but can negatively impact overall performance.
At Microchip, we understand the importance of finding the optimal balance between the cost and performance. Our solution is a family of purposely built data-path processors called WinPath family of SoCs. The WinPath family of SoCs integrates both a general-purpose CPU for control-plane and management-plane processing as well as a programmable network processor specialized in packet processing and interworking protocols. As an example, ARM dual core CPU at 1 GHz frequency can achieve <10 Gbps IP routing, whereas WinPath family SoC running at less than 700 MHz can deliver >20 Gbps IP routing. Such heterogeneous multi-core processor architecture, coupled with hardware accelerators for enhanced Quality of Services (QoS) and IP security, make WinPath family of SoCs an ideal solution for software-defined gateway implementations.
In this blog post, we will delve into the high-level details of WinPath family of SoCs and how it addresses the limitations of conventional and virtualized network design approaches. We will also explore its potential uses in various industries and its ability to deliver high-performance, cost-effective solutions for software-defined gateway implementations.
Microchip’s Software-Defined Gateways
Gateways play a vital role in industrial applications by connecting multiple segments of networks together. These devices can perform both L2 switching and L3 routing, but different applications may have unique protocol and feature requirements. Microchip’s software-defined gateway solution is capable of supporting and servicing multiple functions across various markets, such as carrier networks, Internet of Things (IoT) gateways and smart grids.
Here is an overview of how WinPath family of SoCs is used in Software-Defined Network (SDN) applications and in IoT applications.
SDN (Software-Defined Network) Application
Figure 1 Software-Defined Gateway in SDN Applications
Figure 1 displays an industrial network consisting of several nodes that exchange packets. To maintain the forwarding database, each node needs a control plane to run control protocols such as Spanning Tree Protocol, OSPF or IS-IS. The control planes will exchange control packets with each other to discover the network topology, to learn the network status and more importantly, to understand the forwarding rules and next hop information. However, when each network device is making the forwarding decisions by itself, it is challenging for each device to find the best end-to-end forwarding path independently. SDN technology solves this problem by using centralized controllers and an orchestration layer. The SDN controller manages all network devices and calculates optimal forwarding paths for services. To enable SDN, the network devices must meet at least two requirements. First, all network devices must support an open and standard management interface, also called southbound interface, so that the third party SDN controller knows how to configure and manage the data planes. Second, the network devices must have flexible or programmable data planes to support various configurations coming from the SDN controller. Winpath family-based software-defined gateways fulfill both requirements and are suitable for SDN applications.
Figure 2 Software-Defined Gateway in IoT Applications
In IoT applications, the WinPath family of SoCs is well suited, especially in smart cities. In smart cities, as illustrated in Figure 2, there can be several IoT or smart devices, such as meters, sensors and detectors communicating with IoT servers in the cloud. There is usually an IoT gateway on this communication path that play a crucial role in connecting IoT devices through radio frequency and connects to the server through wireline network. These gateways must aggregate all traffic from IoT devices and transport them to the server in a reliable and secure manner.
The IoT gateway has wireless and wireline aggregation units, and the wireline unit is typically a switch or router that must meet specific requirements, such as a large forwarding table and the ability to perform network address translation.
WinPath family-based software-defined gateways, loaded by WanStaX software from Civica, will be a suitable choice for the aggregation unit in this IoT application. Besides general switching and routing functions, WinPath family gateways can support millions of forwarding rules using external DDR memories. It also comes with embedded IPsec engine to provide IP packet encryption and authentication.
In summary, Microchip's software-defined gateway solution, the WinPath family of SoCs, is a great solution for various industrial applications, such as carrier networks, IoT gateways and smart grids, that require high-performance, cost-effective and secure network solutions.
Microchip’s partnership with Civica has provided the optimal software-defined gateway solution. Civica’s professional software services maximize the full potential of the WinPath family hardware for many customer applications. This partnership has enabled the same programmable gateway to be used in multiple applications that each have unique requirements, with software being the differentiator.
There are white boxes readily available for our customers and by downloading different software, these white boxes can turn into application specific gateways. This is an off-the-shelf ODM/OEM Gateway Solution that can help you bring a new product to the market in the quickest way with minimum research and development investment.
Visit our network processors web page to learn more about WinPath network processors.
Azadeh Farzin, Apr 6, 2023
Tags/Keywords: Communications, Industrial and IoT