Microsoft’s No. 2 top networking feature in Windows Server 2019 is a technical boost for independent software vendors (ISVs) working in the broadcast video space, according to a Wednesday announcement.
The boost is enabled, in part, by a new Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) for Windows. Microsoft developed its version of DPDK in conjunction with partners Cisco and Intel. DPDK is basically a set of software libraries and drivers, according to the announcement:
DPDK is a set of libraries and optimized network drivers providing fast packet processing abilities to user-mode applications in real world scenarios delivering the lowest latency and highest packets per second.
The packet-acceleration capabilities enabled by DPDK can be used to speed up so-called user-mode applications used with video broadcasting. By “user-mode applications,” Microsoft is just referring to DPDK applications that will run on Windows, rather than DPDK applications that tap into the Windows kernel. The distinction is explained in this Microsoft document.
Cisco is involved with the effort because it provided its open source Virtual Media Interface (vMI) as part of the solution, which includes an open source software toolkit called “Herisson,” according to Cisco’s announcement. Intel contributed with its Ethernet-based Intel XL710 NIC (Network Interface Controller) devices.
DPDK is actually an open source project of The Linux Foundation. It’s currently available for Linux systems under the FreeBSD license. The aim of DPDK is to enable fast-packet processing for applications to address video broadcaster needs.
The video broadcasting industry is currently shifting from using Serial Digital Interface (SDI) connections for HD video broadcasting to the use of Ethernet-based Internet protocol (IP) connections, which will support things like 4K television broadcasts. One problem with this shift is that HD video requires a 1.5GB/sec stream, while 4K video requires a 12GB/sec stream.
Because faster packet processing speeds are needed to support IP-based video, The Linux Foundation fostered DPDK. It speeds up packet processing by directly accessing the NICs, “bypassing the host networking stack.”
Microsoft basically re-engineered parts of the Linux Foundation’s DPDK so that it’ll work on Windows. The current release of DPDK for Windows is version 18.02, and Microsoft has tested and validated it on both Windows Server 2016 and Window Server 2019.
Using DPDK requires having a Poll-Mode Driver for the NIC. One is currently available for Intel’s Ethernet Converged Network Adapter XL710 40 GbE product. Microsoft is collaborating with Cavium and Chelsio on creating DPDK Poll-Mode Drivers for Windows for their NICs, as well.
Microsoft was able to demonstrate “70+ million packets per second” packet processing on Intel’s NIC using DPDK technology.
Microsoft sees DPDK, used in combination with graphics processing unit hardware, as making Windows a main choice for supporting streaming media applications.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.