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Cloud Data Centers Take No Chances with Security

“The best just got better” concluded Yael Shenhav, vice president of Ethernet adapters and SmartNIC, Mellanox, announcing at NetEvents Global IT Summit in California, the first shipments of the ConnectX-6 Dx – the world’s most advanced secure 200Gb/s Cloud Ethernet network adapter. She was referring to the recent independent comparison test by Tolly Lab, in which a ConnectX-6 Dx’s predecessor – the ConnectX-5 25G/bs NIC had trounced its nearest competitor, the Broadcom NetXtreme E adapter.

According to 2018 analyst data, Mellanox is the leading vendor of NICs in the high-speed Ethernet (25Gb/s and faster) market segment, with over 65% market share. And Shenhav explained that samples of the latest model began shipping to selected customers in the 3Q, and they will become more widely available during the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Tolly’s detailed report demonstrates that the earlier model, Mellanox ConnectX-5 NIC, delivers up to twice the throughput of the Broadcom adapter in different environments and under different workloads common to cloud and flash storage deployments. In addition, the testing showed that the Mellanox can handle more connections, transmits more data without packet loss and consumes fewer host CPU cycles per packet. According to Kevin Tolly, founder, Tolly Group: “The Mellanox adapter consistently demonstrates higher throughput, better scale, and lower resource utilization. With RoCE, storage traffic, and DPDK, the Mellanox NIC outperformed the Broadcom NIC in throughput, congestion management, and achieved better CPU efficiency.”

The latest member of the family, the ConnectX-6 Dx, builds on this unrivalled performance by adding security. Secure solutions are relevant to a wide range of customers, in particular hyperscalers as cloud, e-commerce, and social media giants have access to the data of hundreds of millions of people. Recent attention to privacy creates a strong incentive to secure users’ data, together with a sometimes conflicting demand to preserve optimal performance and quality of service. The latest Mellanox CX6 Dx adapter directly takes on this challenge and delivers unmatched performance and security.

Open Secure Networking

Shenhav also emphasized that better performance wasn’t the only measure that customers considered. Open source and collaboration is also a keen interest in the development world, and the ability to achieve uncompromising flexibility with a “Software Defined, Hardware Accelerated” architecture.

Referencing Mellanox’s contributions to the Open Compute Project, she ran through several partnerships important to Mellanox, including OEM partners like Dell and HPE, software partners like Microsoft, IBM/Redhat and VMware. Mellanox commitment to open source is demonstrated by their contributions to the Linux kernel, where they were recently ranked as the number three contributor, ahead of giants like Cisco and Oracle.

SmartNICs and IPUs Too
Also covered at NetEvents was Mellanox’s BlueField-2 IPU (I/O Processing Unit) that integrates all the capabilities of ConnectX-6 Dx with an array of powerful Arm processor cores, high performance memory interfaces, and flexible processing capabilities in a single System-on-Chip (SoC) – to support both Ethernet and InfiniBand connectivity up to 200Gb/s. Shenhav explained that controllers embedded on Bluefield-2 are ideal for building highly efficient and cost-effective flash storage, security, IoT and edge computing platforms. BlueField-2 based SmartNICs act as a coprocessor that puts a computer in front of the computer – to transform bare-metal and virtualized environments using advanced softwaredefined networking, NVMe SNAP storage disaggregation, and enhanced security capabilities. Furthermore, BlueField-2 delivers unmatched performance and efficiency for AI workloads in the cloud or at the network edge.

She quoted Baron Fung, director at Dell’Oro Group, saying: “With cloud computing becoming the norm, enterprises increasingly rely on the underlying data center infrastructures to deploy workloads across public, private and edge domains. hence, there is a growing need for advanced, secure, high performance SmartNICs. This is one of the reasons why we forecast the SmartNIC market to grow at a 40 percent CAGR surpassing $500 million by 2023.”

Shenhav concluded that: “ConnectX-6 Dx and BlueField-2 set new records in highperformance networking, allowing our customers and partners to build highly secure and efficient compute and storage infrastructures to increase productivity and reduce total cost of ownership.”

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