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Mellanox Adds to Net Security – It's Sorta Complicated

Brian Santo
12/6/2016
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Mellanox Technologies has enabled stateful packet processing at 400Gbit/s, which makes it possible to do deep packet inspection at a blazingly fast rate, which means anyone running a data center can employ DPI to increase network security without taking much of a performance hit, if any at all.

In addition to performing DPI in the service of firewall functions and distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, other general use cases include load balancing, NFV offload and supporting OpenFlow/P4.

What Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX) announced specifically was the availability of deep packet inspection and stateful packet processing software libraries written to work with its recent NPS-400 Network Processing unit (NPU). The combination of the software and the NPU's acceleration capabilities enables DPI processing for application recognition at processing rates of up to 400Gbit/s, in conjunction with handling of 100 million flows with an average packet size of 400 bytes, the company said.

The common alternative is to leave the task to the processors most commonly used in servers -- Xeon general processing units (GPU) from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). A Xeon set to perform DPI might be able to do so at tens of Gbit/s, however, Mellanox executives told Light Reading.

Using Mellanox's new software working in conjunction with its NPU, Mellanox customers can build intrusion detection systems and intrusion prevention systems and to accelerate processing capabilities for switch routers, including top-of-rack (ToR) switches in data centers.


Want to know more about how to secure data, networks and services? Check out our security channel here on Light Reading.


"Think of it as embedding in the top-of-rack switch the ability to protect the entire rack, to do firewall and DDoS prevention for the entire rack," said Mellanox Vice President of Marketing Kevin Deierling.

"These functions cost cycles on the x86," he continued, using an alternate reference for the Intel processors. "We propose to move those functions off the x86, and leave the x86 to perform business functions."

The approach doesn’t obviate the use of Xeons (or any other GPU). Mellanox is proposing to relieve server GPUs from having to perform what are essentially housekeeping functions, and make quicker work of them to boot.

The stateful packet processing and the deep packet inspection libraries enable developers to delve deeper into the network packets for better understanding of network flows. This brings to IT managers the ability to enhance security and prevent malicious access to their data centers, the company said, adding that the same capabilities allow cost-effective load balancing, network monitoring or any other appliances based on network flow recognition.

Qosmos , a company that specializes in using DPI in SDN/NFV networks, is using the Mellanox technology. Thibaut Bechetoille, CEO of Qosmos, said in a statement, "Deep packet inspection drives L7 applications intelligence in the network and we expect further deployment of L7 services at more and more places in the network."

The software libraries are available as part of the NPS-400 software development kit and can be obtained in source code format as part of standard licensing and support agreements. In addition, these libraries are compatible with the SDK released through opennpu.org in open source.

— Brian Santo, Senior Editor, Components, T&M, Light Reading

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