By Charlie Ashton, VP of Marketing – 6WIND
This week, 6WIND announced that we have joined the ARM Connected Community®, the extensive network of partners who provide a complete solution for products based on the ARM® architecture (see our announcement here).
ARM is a very recent addition to the select list of multicore processor architectures supported by the 6WINDGate packet processing software, previously comprising only Intel® Architecture, MIPS (via Broadcom and Cavium), PowerPC® (LSI Axxia) and Tilera. As announced earlier this year, the first ARM technology-based platform supported by 6WINDGate is TI’s KeyStone II architecture.
For 6WIND, this represents a great opportunity to be part of the overall ARM ecosystem, working with ARM and their licensees to address critical network performance challenges for mobile and cloud infrastructure OEMs who base their products on ARM-based platforms.
The adoption of multicore ARM platforms in networking equipment was addressed by several speakers at the recent Linley Tech Processor Conference in San Jose. In his keynote address, Linley Gwennap observed that the development of the 64-bit ARMv8 ISA has opened new markets in high-end networking and communications. He mentioned that multiple embedded processor vendors have announced plans for ARM-based solutions in this high-end segment, including AppliedMicro (X-Gene), Cavium (Thunder), Freescale (Layerscape) and LSI (Axxia).
Some of these processor vendors subsequently discussed their product plans in detail during presentations at the conference. Clearly, ARM-based processors have now reached cost-performance points that represent attractive options for these markets, which require high-performance processing for both the control plane and data plane.
It was interesting that most of these processor vendors outlined a dual-architecture strategy, rather than stating plans to migrate away from their existing architectures in favor of product lines wholly based around ARM. In terms of minimizing risk at their existing customers who have massive investments in legacy code, this is obviously a prudent approach. Coming from a software company, though, I have to wonder if this strategy is sustainable over the long term.
Thanks to the complexity of today’s high-end multicore architectures, the investment required to validate new processors is massive, and increases dramatically with each new generation. Similarly, both the processor vendors themselves and their software partners (like us) need to make significant on-going investments in maintaining and optimizing the system software that is so critical to the success of these platforms. Will there be an adequate Return on Investment if these investments are spread over multiple architectures?
Is it really feasible (or wise) for a processor vendor to sustain two product lines, based on different architectures, targeting what is fundamentally the same market segment, even if they subdivide that segment for product positioning purposes? Should we expect to see consolidations onto a single architecture within two or three years? How do you think this scenario will evolve for these suppliers?
And while you’re pondering those questions, we hope to see you at the ARM TechCon™ 2012 conference in Santa Clara this week. 6WIND’s expert Jeff Marshall will discuss our networking software solution for ARM technology-based platforms during a technical session “Maximize 4G Network Performance through Advanced Packet Processing Solutions and Multicore Software Optimizations” (session ATC-214, on Wednesday October 31).