Xilinx plunks FPGA tech onto new Alveo network adapter

Xilinx unveiled a new smart network interface card, the Alveo U25, that relies on FPGA technology to lower costs for cloud and data center operators. (Xilinx)

Xilinx announced on Tuesday the Alveo U25 SmartNIC to help cloud service providers, telcos and private cloud data center operators lower costs and improve efficiency for network, storage and compute duties—all on a single device.

The Alveo U25 works on FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) technology, a market that Xilinx dominates with about a 65% share. Xilinx invented the FPGA in 1985 and competes in the FPGA space mainly with Altera, bought by Intel in 2015. A SmartNIC is a network interface card that offloads processing tasks that the system CPU would normally handle.

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Donna Yasay, vice president of marketing for the data center group inside Xilinx, said in an interview that the new device is heavily focused on tier 2 and tier 3 cloud providers who are confronting data bottlenecks caused by networking server I/O processing that takes up to 30% of compute resources. Overhead is growing along with CPU cores. 

“Because it is based on FPGA technology, it can handle all kinds of workloads—inference, acceleration, video, and it’s excellent for networking and storage as well as compression and encryption,” she said. It offers 10 times better performance per watt than generic SoCs used in SmartNICs, Xilinx said. That means it can process 10 times the number of packets than the SoC approach per watt.

A big benefit is that the Alveo U25 is easy to deploy, Yasay said. Two cloud providers are currently working with the device, which will be generally available in the third quarter of 2020. Pricing has not been announced. It supports applications from Xilinx and independent software makers, and the first application available is support for OpenvSwitch offload and acceleration.

Also, Xilinx said it is unveiling its first XtremeScale Ethernet adapter card using the Open Compute Project Spec 3.0 form factor. 

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