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The NoviFlow Difference

The NoviFlow Difference
What makes our products so special?

NoviFlow develops high-performance Ethernet forwarding planes (switches and routers) compliant with open protocols such as OpenFlow, gRPC and soon P4-Runtime, and are designed to fulfill the promise of SDN: the capacity to handle very large numbers of flows and the programmability to optimize network behaviour in real-time.

NoviFlow’s switching solutions have been implemented using fully programmable networking chip technologies (such as Mellanox’s NP5 and Barefoot Networks’s Tofino), which provide both superior packet processing performance and unparalleled versatility and upgradability through software programming. The use of programmable networking chipsets also allows NoviFlow to develop new capabilities and release new versions of their switches in a matter of two to three months, as opposed to the typical development cycle of up to 2 years for ASIC based switches.

In addition to supporting the latest releases of OpenFlow, NoviFlow switches offer advanced customization capabilities including support for the OpenFlow Experimenter interface to deliver capabilities beyond those listed in the OpenFlow specification including:
L2-L7 matching, packet processing and flow management
– Hash on OpenFlow fields for header AND content-based load balancing
– Highly anticipated OpenFlow 1.5 Copy-Field action also supported on OpenFlow 1.3 to 1.5 installations
– MPLS payload matching
– L2 GRE/GTP/VxLAN/MPLS tunneling protocol encapsulation/decapsulation
– BFD Link Monitoring

These features allow operators to expand business by optimizing network support of virtualization in the data centre, improving efficiency and Data Center Interconnect by applying intelligent flow management at the network edge, and significantly improving both ease of use and time-to-market for new services.

Used with industry standard OpenFlow Controllers and Applications, NoviFlow OpenFlow switches are the ideal platform for the implementation of SDN and NFV in today’s high volume networks.

The core innovation of NoviFlow is that we have built a genuine High Performance, Fully Programmable Packet Forwarding Pipeline. What is the impact of this on our products and how does it differentiate NoviFlow’s solutions from those of our competitors? Here are some additional explanations in these regards.


  1. What do we mean in practical terms by a “fully programmable pipeline”?

A fully programmable pipeline allows any combination of match fields, instructions and actions in any combination of one or multiple tables. ASICs typically have very limited and inflexible pipelines, and even the most configurable ASIC pipelines can be optimized for only one specific pipeline architecture at a time. NoviFlow uses NPUs, enabling our products to accommodate whatever SDN functions applications need, in the order in which they need them, and we have the total capacity (flow table size, up to 120 tables) to easily accommodate multiple applications. In this sense, our NPU-based switches offer both the high level of programmability of soft-switches, and the high throughput of hardware based switches


  1. Where are highly programmable pipelines needed (i.e. applications/use cases – NFVs, vEPC, service chaining?)

Highly programmable pipelines are needed in any instance where the pipeline might become complex. These include:

– In situations with widely varying usage models (research institutions, education, development groups…)

– In situations where multiple applications are likely to be running on the same gateway (Access Routers, Gateway Routers, Provider Edge Routers, SD WAN, Scale-out Router, NFV, service chaining etc.)

– In situations with multiple tenants using the same gateway (vCPE, VLAN tunneling services, service chaining, media gateways…)

– In gateway situations with complex filtering logic such as an IPX (SDX)


  1. What happens in a switch with a limited programmable pipeline in these applications/use cases?

In many cases they won’t be able to run the application because the switch’s limited pipeline does not support the needed functionality (i.e. this is a major reason why a “Very Large Global Internet Services Company” chose our switches over the competition.) In other cases if customers have the option of running the application with a vSwitch it will only be able to drive a limited bandwidth (below 6-8 Gbps). In many cases this is unacceptably low and will prevent commercial deployment, or make the application uneconomical or impractical to scale.


  1. What switch architectures support a highly programmable pipeline? NPU, Trident2?

NPU, x86, and other general purpose processors. However, x86 and other general purpose processors can only support very limited bandwidth. FPGAs might make the claim, but their pipelines require being “reflashed” to have their pipeline modified, and so are not flexible in the sense of NPUs.


  1. Where is a programmable pipeline NOT needed (applications/use cases)?

Simple L2 applications with limited interaction with the control plane (i.e. where the network is NOT Software Defined!)


  1. What other competitive advantages does NoviFlow enjoy?
  • We have a 3 month update cycle – we are VERY quick to implement market/customer requirements/features.
  • We use the same high-performance NPUs in our products as the big router vendor’s use for their most advanced routers, and that network appliance vendors use for their products requiring high performance data planes.
  • Being based on NPUs from EZchip we benefit from the development efforts of the world’s leading NPU vendor, including their hundreds of engineers dedicated to continually innovating and improving their products.
  • Because we have no legacy equipment, we are 100% invested in making SDN/OpenFlow succeed, and the same with our customers’ SDN deployments.
  • Our architecture is by far the best suited for fully implementing SDN and OpenFlow. Unlike vendors using other technologies we can implement the FULL OpenFlow specification. It is a truly “software defined networking platform” and is the ideal vehicle for bringing genuine programmability to networks, and as a foundation for P4 (or any other possible evolution of SDN/OpenFlow) when it arrives.
  • We are a software company first and foremost, and not tied to any specific hardware. We are free to evolve with the Networking and SDN markets, no matter which direction they take. We work with a variety of hardware vendors who license our NoviWare software and so are not limited in scope to only the hardware platforms we create.
  • NoviFlow offers mature, full-featured, carrier-grade OpenFlow forwarding planes that have been proven in commercial deployments around the world, that can gracefully scale as demand grows, and that can be easily upgraded as SDN, NFV, and OpenFlow specifications evolve.
  • NoviFlow products include a full complement of O&M functions and interfaces enabling our customers to deploy, operate and upgrade our SDN/OpenFlow switching product using the same tools and processes as they utilize with their existing network devices.