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Intel Corp. on Tuesday today disclosed several features for the company's next-generation communications platform, code-named "Crystal Forest”. The platform will handle data processing across the network more efficiently and securely, while addressing the specialized needs for handling cloud connectivity and content processing.

Currently, equipment manufacturers must combine a variety of highly specialized silicon co-processors with different software programming models to handle multiple communications workloads when building platforms for a scalable network – a very complex and expensive endeavor. With Crystal Forest, equipment manufacturers will be able to consolidate three communications workloads - application, control and packet processing - on multi-core Intel architecture processors to deliver better performance and accelerate time to market. They can also develop a scalable product line based on multiple Intel processor options to plan for future performance increases.

Intel Crystal Forest platform relies on industry-standard Intel Xeon microprocessors (based on Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge cores) with TDP and temperature-related tweaks. The Crystal Forest also sports a special companion chip (co-processor) that handles compression, crypto and packet processing, all the critical features of today's web and cloud servers. Intel's new platform will support Linux and FreeBSD initially with Windows support incoming in the future.

Intel's next-generation communications platform, Crystal Forest, is expected to deliver up to 160 million packets per second performance for Layer 3 packet forwarding, making it possible to send thousands of high-definition videos across each network node. Previously, only ASIC or specialized processors were capable of sending more than 100 million packets per second. The Intel data plane development kit (DPDK), a set of software libraries and algorithms, improves the performance and throughput of packets on Intel architecture platforms to yield more than five times the performance over previous generations of Intel platforms.

"The demand for increased network performance will continue to grow as more smart devices connect to the Internet every day. And with the popularity of social networking and other high-bandwidth services, such as video and photo uploads/downloads, interactive video, crowdcasting and online gaming, service providers will be challenged to efficiently provision sufficient upstream capacity and manage the spike in network traffic," said Rose Schooler, general manager of Intel's Communications Infrastructure Division.

Crystal Forest will also utilize Intel QuickAssist technology, which processes and accelerates specialized packet workloads - cryptography, compression and deep packet inspection included - on standard Intel platforms. Using this technology, secure Internet transactions can be accelerated up to 100Gb/s on the platform to give service providers the ability to handle many more secure transactions and without the cost of specialized solutions. The network will also be able to evolve to provide "always-on" secure Internet connections, as opposed to the opt-in connections currently used on select applications or for financial transactions online.

The Crystal Forest platform promises to enable equipment manufacturers to design more flexible platforms, from small- to medium-sized business firewalls to high-end routers. Service providers, too, can save money by deploying fewer complex platforms, making their network easier to manage and maintain. The Intel platform roadmap plans to deliver annual performance refreshes for several years, so equipment manufacturers and service providers will be able to scale and refresh their designs to meet future network needs. Additionally, Crystal Forest will use a common application programming interface and common drivers so that multiple designs can be implemented in much less time and at much lower development costs.

Crystal Forest is set to become available later this year.

Tags: Intel, Xeon, Crystal Forest

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