Intel Sets Sights on Networking

September 14, 2010 at 9:17 am Leave a comment

“Never bring a knife to a gunfight.”
– Conventional wisdom

Intel has one of the largest R&D budgets in the entire technology industry.  It’s certainly one of the most focused ones, given their near-singularity of purpose.  So when an organization has that much resource, with product cycles that move that fast, it’s fun to watch what happens when they target something specific — like networking performance.

Clearly they’ve been focusing on improving packet performance over the past four years.  The picture below overlays Vyatta’s performance on a stock, single-CPU Intel 1U box.  The orange line is an approximation of what that box costs vs a Cisco router having roughly the same throughput.  (Note that an Intel box in this chart never costs more than $2,500 while comparative Cisco boxes top $100,000+).

(As a point of clarification, the 10G performance mark is an Intel-published benchmark that actually claims 20Gb bi-directional performance.)

Given the tremendous progression above, here’s the kicker:  Based on the scheduled tracks at this week’s Intel Developer’s Forum it’s clear that they’ve only just begun.  Tracks include:

  • Intel Ethernet:  10Gb Backbone for the Cloud
  • Networking Requirements for High Performance Computing in the Cloud
  • Revolutionizing Network Equipment with IA Multi-core Silicon
  • Driving Down IP Network Development Costs: Packet Processing on Intel® Architecture
  • Unified Networking for Virtualization
  • Extending Virtualization to Communications and Embedded Applications
  • Cloud Architecture and Intel CloudBuilder
  • Internet EDGE Service Delivery on Industry Standard Communications Servers

This kind of focus has happened before in other industries.  The metaphor is staring us right in the eye:  Linux.  Its widespread and rapid adoption occurred because customers could get Unix-like functionality at x86 price points, compared to SPARC, PA-RISC, etc.  The x86 curve compared to those other technologies looked remarkably similar to the one above.

Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it, while those who learn from it will be the beneficiaries.  Regardless, Intel has the gun, and networking is in their sights.  That much is clear.


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