Comms chips

Mellanox Eases Into Network Processor Market

Mellanox Technologies announced a new family of programmable processors for networking and storage applications.

Data center operators persistently drive the industry to simplify system design, lower total power and reduce overall system cost. Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX) is responding with BlueField Mellanox ConnectX, which combines network acceleration offload technology with an array of high-performance 64-bit ARMv8 CPU cores that leverage the Tilera coherent mesh interconnect technology from the recent acquisition of EZchip.

The resulting systems-on-chips (SoCs) are optimized for a set of applications, including dataplane offload for NFV, networking and security, and serving as the embedded storage controller of an array of solid state Flash drives.

In short, the BlueField family gets the company into network processing without having it take on Intel directly in the server market by ensuring it sticks to other areas, such as adapters, Mellanox's senior director of marketing, Bob Doud, told Light Reading.

Want to know more about communications ICs? Check out our comms chips channel here on Light Reading.

ARM is just better for packet processing than Intel's Xeon, Doud asserted. Some workloads, such as compression, consequently run better on ARM, he added.

According to Heavy Reading analyst Simon Stanley, "The BlueField development builds on several strengths for Mellanox: processors, PCIe controller silicon and adapters. Most servers including those based on Open Compute have slots for PCIe adapters and several companies are already offering Ethernet adapters with added functionality including Open vSwitch offload. Is it not clear yet how competitive the Mellanox solution will be when it arrives nor how many service providers will make use of these enhanced adapters."

The BlueField family features Mellanox’s latest generation ConnectX network acceleration technology integrated with an array of 64-bit ARMv8 processor cores and multiple Virtual Protocol Interconnect (VPI) 100Gbit/s networking ports supporting InfiniBand and Ethernet. The SkyMesh coherent on-chip interconnect enables scalable performance and leading power efficiency, the company notes.

Mellanox will begin sampling BlueField SoCs in the first quarter of 2017. The family will be expanded, Doud said, to provide options for scaling up or down.

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

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