Is Intel About to Step on Cisco and Juniper?

Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) announcement this week at the Opening Networking Summit has Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR) on notice. The company wants Intel CPU’s powering the switching infrastructure of data centers. Intel is also offering a reference design for new servers that would use its technology, allowing the CPUs of Intel-powered servers to handle packet switching instead of requiring dedicated networking processors, according to GigaOM. Cisco and Juniper both produce dedicated networking processors.

Intel SDN + NFV Reference Architecture

Intel acquired Fulcum, a networking silicon vendor in 2011, and has introduced some new products but the core of Intel’s announcement on Wednesday was the Intel Data Plane Development Kit for OpenVSwitch. This SDK lets the Intel CPUs in servers handle the complex routing of network traffic instead of requiring dedicated hardware. This also puts pressure on Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM), a maker of  merchant silicon. Intel said at the event that Verizon is already prototype testing the system…

While it is not clear yet how well Intel’s development kit for network switch works, especially compared to the dedicated systems that Cisco and Juniper produce, its very existence heralds the next phase of Intel’s plan to take over the server market. Servers once used specialized CPUs. Now most use Intel processors. The networking switching processors have been a hold-out, but Intel plans to rectify that. The company already has experience building network chip sets for consumers and its “i” series of processors for desktops and laptops has made dedicated graphics cards unnecessary for all but serious PC gamers.

In a press release through Market Watch, Intel says “These reference architectures, aimed for the telecommunications, cloud data center and enterprise data center infrastructure market segments, combine open standards for SDN and NFV with industry-leading Intel hardware and software to enable networks to be more agile and intelligent…Integrating SDN and NFV on standard x86 platforms allows lowering the acquisition and management costs as well as enabling new innovative services never before possible in networking infrastructure.” TechWeek Europe notes that this Software Defined Networks (or SDNs) technology Intel has developed could bring it into “closer” competition with Cisco. Unfortunately for Cisco, Intel already has a foot in the data center door with its CPUs.