Xilinx launches Alveo U25 SmartNIC platform

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Xilinx has announced the industry’s first SmartNIC platform that delivers true convergence of network, storage and compute acceleration functions on a single device.

The Alveo-U25 SmarNIC is designed to bring the greater efficiency and lower TCO benefits of SmartNICs to cloud service providers, telcos, and private cloud data centre operators, who are struggling with increasing networking demands and rising costs.

The U25 combines a highly optimised SmartNIC platform with a powerful and flexible FPGA-based engine that supports full programmability and turnkey accelerated applications. It delivers a comprehensive SmartNIC platform to address demands and workloads such as SDN, virtual switching, NFV, NVMe-oF, electronic trading, AI inference, video transcoding, and data analytics.

In addition, Xilinx announced its first XtremeScale Ethernet adapter card in the Open Compute Project (OCP) Spec 3.0 form factor and a proof of concept for the world’s first FPGA-based OCP Accelerator Module (OAM).

“The SmartNIC market is forecast to surpass $600m and comprise 23 percent of the worldwide Ethernet adapter market by 2024,” according to Baron Fung, research director at Dell’Oro Group. “As cloud service providers scale capacity upwards, they are increasing their deployment of SmartNICs to free up valuable CPU cores for business applications, optimising server utilisation. The telco service providers, another market with strong growth potential, are looking to integrate SmartNICs from the core to the edge of the network for applications such as NFV and AI inferencing. FPGA-based SmartNICs are well positioned to address this growing market opportunity.”

The significant R&D investments required to develop and deploy SmartNICs have hindered broader adoption. The Alveo U25 SmartNIC platform addresses this by providing true plug-and-play capabilities that make SmartNICs accessible for more widespread deployments.

Powered by Xilinx’s FPGA technology, the Alveo U25 SmartNIC provides higher throughput and a far more adaptable engine than SoC-based NICs to allow cloud architects to accelerate a wide range of functions and applications quickly. The platform enables ‘bump-in-the-wire’ network, storage, and compute offload and acceleration functions for maximum efficiency by avoiding unnecessary data movements and CPU processing. This helps to reduce the CPU burden and reclaims resources to run more applications.

Embedded ARM processors provide critical control plane processing to support emerging bare metal server use cases. The baseline NIC delivers ultra-high throughput, small packet performance, and low-latency. Standard full-featured NIC functionality and drivers, including Onload application acceleration software, can reduce latency up to 80 percent and improve transmission control protocol (TCP)-based server application efficiency by up to 400 percent in cloud-based applications.

“Today’s cloud infrastructures suffer from critical data bottlenecks caused by server I/O,” said Donna Yasay, vice president of marketing, Data Center Group at Xilinx. “With up to 30 percent of data center compute resources allocated for networking I/O processing, overhead continues to grow along with CPU cores. Xilinx is addressing the challenges resulting from the increased demands on networking by providing an easier to deploy SmartNIC with turnkey accelerated applications and out-of-the-box capabilities that go far beyond fundamental networking.”

The Alveo U25 SmartNIC platform enables turnkey accelerated applications that make it easier for non-tier-1 cloud data center operators to deploy SmartNICs. It is able to support turnkey applications from both Xilinx and independent software vendors. The programming model supports high-level network programming abstractions such as HLS and P4, as well as compute acceleration frameworks such as the Vitis unified software platform to enable Xilinx and third party accelerated applications.

The first out-of-the-box accelerated application available on the Alveo U25 SmartNIC is support for Open vSwitch (OVS) offload and acceleration. The plug-and-play solution will offload over 90 percent of OVS processing from the server to improve packet throughput by over 5X. Future turnkey solutions from Xilinx are planned for security functions such as IPSec, SSL/TLS, AES-256/128, and distributed firewall as well as AI inference acceleration.

The Alveo U25 SmartNIC is currently sampling with early access customers.