Sandvine has long used Intel technology to power our solutions, starting back in 2010 with the Nehalem chip and using every generation of chip since then. That has enabled us to optimize our software over the last 10 years to maximize the performance and efficiency when we deploy on Intel-based hardware. But we decided recently to take the next step as we work to help our customers make the journey to cloud architectures of their future.
We decided to go 100% COTS for the hardware that we sell to customers. As in – here is a Dell server to load our software on, just like you would in a virtual or cloud environment.
Here are our top four reasons:
- Cost: Not just an anagram for COTS (haha). COTS-based hardware is cheaper to buy for equivalent performance (if your software is written the right way!). No argument here, it’s simple – if it costs X to develop a hardware system, then you need to get those X costs through sales margins. Sandvine knows that demand for performance among all operators in all countries is growing, while ARPU and subscriber base is either flat or decreasing. We don’t want to compound our customers' problems by adding to their cost, so we decided to leverage the most cost-efficient platforms available in volume.
- Simplified logistics: Less buying and support cycles for procurement teams. The variety of software and services our customers buy today is big enough already, so there’s no need to add one more here for Sandvine's ANI portfolio.
- Faster hardware refresh cycles: Proprietary hardware will probably only be refreshed every three to five years with a significant step up in performance each time. If you’re unlucky, you can buy right at the end of the cycle and it quickly goes obsolete. Whereas COTS servers are refreshed much more frequently, so you can be sure that if your application vendor runs on COTS then whenever you buy, you’ll be getting a product with a reasonable shelf life and a declining total cost of ownership (TCO) equation for performance over time.
- Better reusability: What to do with end of life proprietary hardware? Keep it in the warehouse forever. What to do with end of life COTS hardware? Add it to your datacenter as computer nodes for non-critical applications or as a playground for employee pet projects – encourage some innovation!
But even those four are enough to say that we put COTS hardware at the base of our ANI portfolio, at the foundation of our platforms.
We know COTS
Sandvine products deal with multi-Tbps traffic in Tier 1 provider networks every single day. Even if the COTS hardware is cheap, the software must deliver performance that maximizes the use of the CPUs and specifically the network I/O. We have been developing on COTS hardware in Sandvine for years (even if we painted it with a logo, it was COTS). We know it inside and out.
The Sandvine Hardware Certification Program consists of several major steps. Some of them are visible to our customers, others are internal, but ultimately the goal is to deliver maximum performance from COTS hardware and reduce the cost of Gbps. Through our process to ensure that the right COTS platforms are delivered to customers, we follow a stringent evaluation process that yields maximum performance and, more importantly to our customers, predictability. Here is the process that we followed for our initial COTS-based offering:
Learn: We take best in class hardware, put our ActiveLogic software on top of it, and do extensive testing in our lab. We experiment to find the best hardware specifications, which BIOS settings give the best performance boost, and many other details that ensure the best user experience. It’s the little things, like “How does riser configuration impact performance?” or “What is the optimal NIC card placement in this COTS server?”.
Document: Knowledge doesn’t scale if it is not documented. Sandvine maintains an extensive knowledge base for COTS that we leverage both internally and with customers. This helps our customers make the right choices for investments in COTS hardware and NFV Infrastructures.
Dimension: Our ANI products are constantly being tested under heavy load to emulate real Tier 1 networks. We dimension our solution on COTS hardware, and we don’t do it twice a year, we do it every day. We accumulate performance testing information to provide precise dimensioning for our customers.
iQ42300 – Sandvine’s COTS-based platform
The deliverable for Sandvine’s shift to 100% COTS is our new iQ42300 platform.
We combined our knowledge of COTS hardware with our best in class software and the hardware selection process to deliver a product designed to drive your TCO lower, and meet the needs of some of the largest network operators in the world:
- Dense 100GE or 10GE interfaces
- Last generation of Intel Xeon CPUs
- Scalable implementation of Sandvine’s ANI use cases for any network type
All together in the iQ42300.
Enough spoilers for today. Check it out on our website and schedule a demo!