Specialist hardware developer Bivio Networks is now targeting UK spooks and service providers with its latest 10Gbit/s programmable deep packet inspection (DPI) engines.
The Linux-based Bivio 7000 boxes sport multiple PowerPC processors, and Bivio claims they can be turned to just about any DPI purpose, from security onwards.
"The strategy is high-speed network applications in a general-purpose computing environment," said Bivio boss Elan Amir. "We never specialised the box to a specific application domain - we recognised that all application domains have common structures and features. We are now on our third generation product, and unlike a switch or router that does relatively simple things, this is a full wire-speed application deployment platform."
He added: "Deep packet inspection at base is the discipline and technique of taking action on any and every part of the packet. In the messaging context it could be anti-virus or leak-prevention, in the transactional context it could be application performance management, and in the security context it could be an IPS or firewall. Many of our OEM customers are IDS/IPS companies, such as Sourcefire, Samsung, and Check Point. Arbor uses it for threat mitigation systems.
"Service providers are interested in DPI too, as a mechanism to understand what's running on their networks - understanding the context of traffic lets them associate it with a billing record. So the box would analyse it, apply QOS, associate with billing, etc.
"We also sell to the US government and various intelligence agencies - they want DPI for network monitoring, wiretapping, lawful interception, and so on."
Bivio's asymmetric multiprocessing architecture uses PowerPCs. The base system has a PPC management processor, a network processor, and two PPCs for data processing. Each system can also take a secondary data processing card with four PPCs, and you can daisy-chain systems together.
There is no shared memory. According to Amir, the network processor distributes packets intelligently to maintain flow and content, and the data processors exchange state information via a shared table.
The system runs Bivio's BiviOS implementation of Linux, which supports off-the-shelf Linux apps and includes extra features such as load balancing and clustering.
"Applications are as easy to develop as for Linux, but they run at network speed," Amir said.
There's a stack of other companies promising to do DPI at 10Gbit/s, including Aviva Networks, Force10, ConSentry, Continuous Computing, and Sandvine - plus telco specialists such as Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent are building DPI systems around bladeservers - but Amir claimed that Bivio was the only one that could do it without limitations.
"There's typically limitations on policies, limitations on packet size, and so on," he added. "We are the first and only platform to do 10Gig deep packet inspection. We will have 10Gig-capable boxes for $8,000 to $9,000 - with conditions and limits - up to $100,000. It depends on the application, whether it's sustained 10Gig or burst." ®