Overview: Embedding DPI and L7 intelligence in SDN and NFV architectures


Network traffic is growing rapidly, as indicated by a 13-fold increase in global mobile data traffic forecasted over a seven year period*. This is creating a critical business challenge for network operators: how to best address this traffic growth by building out infrastructure in a way that does not outpace the revenue generated by the services deployed on the infrastructure. This can be accomplished by improving bandwidth management, spending less on equipment, and deploying new profitable services more quickly – all facilitated by SDN architecture.

SDN makes it easier to manage bandwidth by giving operators the ability to manage network assets from a central control point with a global view instead of a decentralized, local view. This is because SDN architecture separates control and data plane functions within a network device, allowing traffic to be controlled with greater automation, more intelligence, and less support effort. Moreover, network functions run on industry-standard servers that typically have lower capital and operating expenses (CapEx/OpEx) than purpose-built network elements. Complexity is also reduced when network functions run on a common hardware platform, making it easier and faster to launch new services.

Another challenge facing network operators is insufficient knowledge about the traffic on their networks, much of which is third-party applications and services. Consequently, it is more difficult to enforce policy, manage traffic and differentiate services, among other things. Today, SDN implementations are limited to L2-L4 headers, and as a result, switches cannot differentiate traffic from various L7 applications. This leads to the inefficient use of both network bandwidth and compute resources since each specialized system, like media servers, has to analyze all the traffic in order to pick out just the relevant flows (e.g., streaming video) and then process them.

* Source: “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012-2017,”  

The Solution: Embedded DPI and L4-7 intelligence

L4-L7 DPI fills the visibility gap by providing the network application and metadata information required for more intelligent decision-making. This is the basis for a service-aware network architecture designed to provide service providers more control over their networks through improved policy control, video optimization, load balancing, fire-walling, network monitoring, and more.


Form factors for Qosmos Embedded DPI in SDN and NFV

Qosmos SAM® for vSwitch

  • Integrates with virtual switch to provide detailed, real-time traffic intelligence
  • Classifies flows and extracts metadata at the hypervisor level

Qosmos DPI Virtual Network Function Component (VNFC)

  • Protocol classification and metadata extraction in a VM form factor
  • Compliant with ETSI standards

Qosmos ixEngine

  • Software Development Kit (SDK) composed of software libraries and tools
  • Embedded by developers into new or existing solutions to provide protocol classification and metadata extraction
  • Can be used in all environments: physical, virtualized and in SDN architecture


Use Cases

“Use of DPI will continue to grow, but the emergence of DPI and NFV is one of several forces that are changing operator requirements in this area. Vendors need to be able to respond fast if they are to benefit from the continuing opportunity.”

Graham Finnie

Chief Analyst at Heavy Reading