Solarflare ushers in new era of Smart NIC fabrics

Industry leaders like Google and Microsoft are instrumenting thousands of servers with FPGA-based Smart NICs & security chips. Solarflare is first to provide a scalable fabric with a standard NIC.

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10,000 connections per rack matches a human neuron

Solarflare, a pioneer in the development of neural-class networks, today unveiled a new class of Smart NICs along with the industry’s first Smart NIC Fabric for the enterprise. Since 2005, connectivity in rack computing has soared over 100x from 30 connections per rack in 2005, to a neural-class level of 5,000 connections per rack in 2017.

Until now, neural-class connectivity was provided by Smart NICs based only on FPGAs or NPUs, which routinely cost 10x more than standard NICs, and only by hyperscale cloud service providers such as Google and Microsoft with the massive size needed to achieve economies of scale. In relentless pursuit of driverless data centers, hyperscale companies developed Smart NIC fabrics to migrate from centralized appliances such as firewalls, to a distributed architecture that can scale to millions of servers, and to software defined automation which requires only a single admin for tens of thousands of servers.

Responding to the need for Smart NIC fabrics in the enterprise, Solarflare pioneered the following innovations based on standard Ethernet:

A New Generation of Smart NICs for Neural Class Networks – Soon, it will be common for large and medium enterprises to deploy popular business analytics using machine learning. The infrastructure will be server clusters with thousands of cores interconnected in neural-class networks. For a future of neural-class networks, Solarflare developed XtremeScale software defined NICs, the first general purpose NICs to join FPGA and NPU-based products in the Smart NIC category with: a) the power to inspect packets at line speed; b) ultra scale connectivity allowing a server rack to match human neuron connectivity of 10,000 connections;  c) a suite of shrink-wrapped network applications; and d) APIs for software defined data center pros to use real-time packet data to engineer custom traffic flows or develop their own applications.

A New Platform for Granular and Scalable Networking – The ability to scale-out by adding another server is the essence of software defined storage, software defined networking and NoSQL databases. XtremeScale Fabric is the industry’s first Smart NIC Fabric which provides a cost-effective platform for distributed network acceleration, security, monitoring and packet capture. In an XtremeScale Fabric, firewalls can scale with the addition of each server, virtual machine and container.

Cloudwick helps leading enterprises like 3M, Bank of America, Comcast, Home Depot, Intuit, JP Morgan, NetApp, Target, Visa, and Walmart gain competitive advantage from open source, data lake, big data, cloud and advanced analytics. Cloudwick is leveraging XtremeScale Fabric technology in its next generation of highly scalable solutions.

“Our business is modernizing data, analytics and cloud operations, which in most cases involves a migration to scale-out environments,” said Mark Schreiber, General Manager at Cloudwick.  “With software defined network processing on every server, Solarflare XtremeScale Fabrics provides both the granularity and scalability we need in a networking platform for highly distributed applications.”

According to Ahmet Houssein, Vice President of Marketing at Solarflare, “In the past, very few application servers needed the power to inspect packets at line speed, nor the intelligence to shape a network, and when they did this rare capability was provided by expensive FPGAs. Today, there is a pervasive need by analytics, machine learning and security applications for sophisticated packet processing, and NICs are a perfect platform because they’re designed into every server in the data center.”

Smart NIC Fabric Technology Driven by Hyperscale Cloud Service Providers

Hyperscale public cloud service providers such as AWS, Google and Microsoft are leading an epic migration to new data center technologies designed for deploying and profitably operating millions of servers, two orders of magnitude more than large corporate data centers with tens of thousands of servers. In these highly distributed environments, the humble NICs used to interconnect servers to Ethernet networks have emerged as critical network infrastructure.

Microsoft and Google are two hyperscale cloud service providers publishing information about how they are instrumenting servers with Smart NICs and security chips to offload servers from a variety of applications such as performance acceleration and security:

•             The Microsoft Cloud-Scale Acceleration Architecture, otherwise known as the Configurable Cloud, is being deployed in the majority of new servers in Microsoft’s production datacenters across more than 15 countries and 5 continents, and allows the data path of cloud communications to be accelerated with programmable hardware. This data path can include networking flows, storage flows, security operations, and distributed applications.

•             In the Google Infrastructure Security Design Overview, the company says that both the server boards and the networking equipment are custom-designed by Google. Google also discloses they design custom chips, including a hardware security chip that is currently being deployed on both servers and peripherals. These chips allow Google to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google devices at the hardware level.

Solarflare XtremeScale Architecture, Smart NIC Fabric and Software Defined NICs

The Smart NIC hardware and software deployed by hyperscale cloud service providers is proprietary. Fortunately for enterprise IT organizations, Solarflare has developed an XtremeScale Smart NIC platform which provides server-level granularity and scalability and is now commercially available. The platform consists of the:

XtremeScale Architecture—All new Solarflare chips, adapters and software are designed under an architecture designed for scalable and granular Ethernet traffic engineering. The pillars of the architecture are: 1) Ultra high bandwidth up to 100Gb, 2) Ultra-low latency of <1us, 3) Ultra scale connectivity of thousands of vNICs per adapter, 4) Features can be software defined through open APIs, 5) Server security is provided through chip hardware, and 6) NICs are instrumented for packet telemetry

XtremeScale Software Defined NICs—Join FPGAs and NPUs in the Smart NIC class of server adapters. Designed under the XtremeScale Architecture, the powerful, software defined products are the industry’s first Smart NICs with FPGA-like capabilities at the cost of a NIC.

XtremeScale Smart NIC Fabric—Building an XtremeScale Ethernet Smart NIC fabric starts by installing general purpose XtremeScale software-defined NICs in every server. Once installed, XtremeScale Fabric applications are available to provision the following performance, security and visibility applications tailored for specific workloads running on physical servers, VMs and container microservices:

•             Performance Acceleration–A suite of applications are available which allow traffic to bypass the OS kernel and accelerate performance. The Universal Kernel Bypass (UKB) suite includes TCP, UDP, DPDK, and NVMe-oF variants of kernel bypass for general purpose, NFV and storage applications. Solarflare Onload™ is a TCP and UDP kernel bypass application, and is widely deployed in the electronic trading industry including 9 of the top 10 exchanges.

•             Security–The SolarSecure application monitors packet flows to every server.  Using patented ServerLock technology, the app can be configured to lock down a server if needed. SolarSecure Manager is used to configure and manage thousands of SolarSecure clients shipped with every 8500 Series NIC. SolarSecure 1.0 will be announced and generally available in 2H’2017.

•             Network Visibility–The SolarCapture packet capture and network analytics application provides lossless packet capture up to 40Gbps needed for regulatory compliance and network analytics needed for security and network performance management. SolarCapture 1.0 is available today. SolarCapture 2.0, featuring a family of clustered enterprise-class appliances, will be announced and generally available on August 4th, 2017.

About Solarflare

Solarflare is pioneering server connectivity for neural-class networks. From silicon to firmware to software, Solarflare provides a comprehensive, integrated set of technologies for distributed, ultra-scale, software-defined datacenters.



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