By Ron Wilson, Editor-in-Chief, Altera Corporation
An accelerating vortex of technology change is gathering rotational energy about a relatively simple concept in data-center computing. As it accelerates, this whirlpool of change may scour away existing concepts of server architecture and data-center networking, bend metro networks to its will, and draw even traditional embedded computing systems inexorably into the giant server complexes at the center of rotation.
The concept is easy to pose as a question. With all that computing power and storage capacity concentrated in a data center, might it be possible to move functions out of dedicated hardware boxes in the field, and into software on all those servers? The question is easy; the answer is more complex.
Often, the answer will be yes—you can virtualize the function of a piece of dedicated hardware by moving it to software in a remote data center. Current work in centralized radio access networks (C-RAN) and, more generally, network functions virtualization (NFV) are proof s of the concept. But doing so can have implications far beyond the designers’ original intent.
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