If you slept in the modern data center 101 class, SmartNIC is a card that can offload some processing from the I/O and the CPU and make sure things such as data compressing, IP processing, or similar tasks run on the card itself.
A traditional network interface card was just not cut out for a modern data center and Offload NIC card based on ASIC solves just a piece of the puzzle. Having an ASIC approach, all functions are hardened, and there is no adaptability and hardware upgrading path, and the limited offload cannot be updated with new needs. It takes two years or longer to finish an ASIC, while a hardware programmable card would be a better fit.
Here is where SmartNIC comes to play as a Programmable SmartNIC is ASIC based, uses ARM cores for some processing, but has an FPGA hardware programmable unit that can help with a broader offload.
Cloud providers need both performance and adaptability, and this is where Alveo SN1000 may help offload networking, security, and storage.
The Alveo SN1000 comes with two 100 Gb SmartNIC ports in FHHL PCIe form factor 2X QSFP28, PCI x16 lanes (Gen 3 x 16, Gen 4 x8), all this in 75W TDP. It comes with 100M pss, one million LUT FPGA programmable fabric, and a 16 core NXP Arm SoC for the control part. In case you are wondering, these are Cortex-A72 based cores.
One example of FPGA programmability part of the SmartNIC incudes a custom Firewall running OVS tailored to customers' needs, NVMe, CEPH, and QUIC for data (Virtion), encrypt and decrypt data hardware accelerator, as well as the custom compression programmed in FPGA hardware.
The second example of custom programmability of Xilinx Alveo is used for data compaction in IPsec, Firewall in Virtio, and custom virtual switch programmed in the LUTs.
The card uses Vitis RTL/HLS mature developer tools to compute or store offloads at hardware speeds with powerful high level language support.
Xilinx now has three SmartNIC cards for separate customers’ needs. It offers an X2 10/25/100Gb offload NIC card, U25 as a 25Gb SmartNIC card, and, on top of the food chain, the SN1000 100Gbit SmartNIC.
“Data centers are transforming to increase networking bandwidth and optimize for workloads like artificial intelligence and real-time analytics”, said Salil Raje, executive vice president and general manager, Data Center Group at Xilinx. “These complex, compute-intensive and constantly-evolving workloads are pushing existing infrastructure to its limits and driving the need for fully composable, software-defined hardware accelerators that provide the adaptability to optimize today’s most demanding applications as well as the flexibility to quickly take on new workloads and protocols, and accelerate them at line rate.”
New Alveo SN1000 SmartNICs
The Xilinx Alveo N1000, it is claimed, is the industry’s first family of composable SmartNICs offering software defined hardware acceleration for all function offloads. SN1000 SmartNICs directly offload CPU-intensive tasks to optimize networking performance, with an open architecture that can accelerate a broad range of network functions at a line rate.
Using the Vitis Networking platform and industry standard, high level programming languages such as P4, C, and C++, software developers can create network functions, protocols, and applications that operate in hardware on the SmartNIC. Vitis Networking allows organizations to quickly and easily compose new, and tweak existing, network functions to handle new protocols and applications without replacing hardware, future-proofing investments.
SN1000 SmartNICs provide software-defined hardware acceleration for a wide range of networking, security, and storage offloads, such as Open vSwitch and virtualization acceleration (Virtio.net). Security offloads include IPsec, kTLS, and SSL/TLS and accelerated storage applications including Virtio.blk, NVMe™ over TCP, Ceph, and compression and crypto services.
“VMware is defining the hybrid cloud architecture for next-generation applications with heightened security requirements. SmartNICs will play a critical role in the VMware Cloud Foundation architecture by giving customers a unified management, security, and resiliency model that spans both bare metal and virtualized environments where the composability of Xilinx Alveo SN1000 SmartNICs will provide a flexible, integrated, and qualified solution for customers.” -- Lee Caswell, vice president of marketing, VMware Cloud Platform Business Unit
“Today’s software-defined data center demands flexibility and scalability to meet the ever-changing needs of customer workloads. The innovative composable offload framework of the Xilinx Alveo SN1000 SmartNIC family gives Inspur the agility to adapt to evolving customer needs by rapidly developing and deploying custom workloads.” -- Ben Li, general manager of Network Business Unit at Inspur
Based on the Xilinx 16nm UltraScale+ architecture, the SN1000 family of SmartNICs are powered by the low-latency Xilinx XCU26 FPGA and a 16-core Arm processor. SN1000 SmartNICs deliver dual-QSFP ports for 10/25/100Gb/s connectivity with leading small packet performance and a PCIe Gen 4 interconnect. The first model in the family is the SN1022, which is offered in a full height, half-length form factor in a 75-Watt power envelope.
The Alveo SN1022 SmartNIC will be generally available in March 2021.