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The Next OCTEON

Cavium has recently announced the latest in their OCTEON line: following OCTEON II is OCTEON III. (Betcha didn’t see that one coming.) If there’s one major theme that seems to underlie their motivations for this family it’s that high-end functionality is moving to the low end. Specifically, in this case, the low end means enterprise access points and service provider gateways. The classic edge.

In particular, they appear very focused on security and network-attached storage. Security has traditionally been done elsewhere; NAS is on the ascendant.

For those of us that use “standard” computers, we’re used to running anti-virus software to combat threats. But an increasing number of people are doing significant things with their phones, and phones don’t have the bandwidth to do spam and virus prevention on top of what they’re already stretching to do. So the service providers are having to put protections at the gateway instead. And what used to be separate security functions like firewalling and content inspection are merging into so-called unified threat management (UTM) boxes.

NAS, to a large extent, involves making the cloud look like a local hard drive. Backup and restore from the cloud. (Although, as an aside, there’s one major hurdle to cloud backup: upload/download speeds. I’ve been using cloud backup. It took a month for the first backup to complete. Seriously. I just did a restore a couple days ago – a .pst file. 1.5 GB. First off, any connection interruption – like the computer going to sleep – completely restarted the restore. It took a total of 3 tries and about 7 hours to do. I was without email for all that time. I felt so bereft.)

The result is a quad-core SoC with three times the performance/power of OCTEON II. It has the usual OCTEON characteristic of a hardware scheduler to manage the packet traffic across the cores. But they’ve also added a hardware deep packet inspection (DPI) engine.

From a software standpoint, they’re providing full virtualization and they have turnkey NAS and DPI packages as well as other Linux apps appropriate to boxes in this part of the network.

You can get more info in their release.

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