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Mellanox today introduced a pair of SmartNICs for data center servers and storage systems at VMworld that boast improvements in security, performance, and efficiency for any workload. The company, which is being acquired by Nvidia in a $6.9 billion deal expected to close by the end of the year, also plans to make the new networking interconnects ConnectX-6 Dx and BlueField-2 available before 2020.

ConnectX-6 Dx, which will be the most heavily adopted of the pair, provides up to two ports of 25, 50, or 100 Gb/s, or a single port of 200 Gb/s. The product also includes IP Security and Transport Layer Security protocols, advanced network virtualization, remote direct memory access (RDMA) over converged Ethernet, and non-volatile memory express on fabrics for storage acceleration, according to Mellanox.

The company continues to highlight its high-speed capabilities. “Faster storage and faster servers need faster networks,” said Kevin Deierling, VP of marketing at Mellanox. “We’re showing 200 gig capabilities now. This is performance that is unmatched in the industry. We were the first to 25 gig, the first to 50, the first to 100, now the first to 200 gig.”

The BlueField-2 includes all of the features of the ConnectX-6 Dx with Arm processor cores and flexible processing capabilities in a single system-on-chip (SOC). The prevailing goal of the BlueField-2, as Deierling describes it, is to make securing the cloud possible.

“The problems that are being encountered now in first public cloud, but also now private cloud and enterprise, is that in the old days of an enterprise all of the applications that were running in a data center were the enterprise applications. They were known, controlled and trusted by the company that was actually running that data center. As soon as we move to cloud, we end up with a different model,” he said.

“When suddenly you move to cloud you’re bringing customer applications, third-party applications right into the middle of your data center and that potentially can bring in a malicious attacker,” Deierling explained. “Once you’ve compromised the x86 CPU you’ve compromised everything because your security policies are running in the exact same domain as your malicious attacker.”

Security Advancements

The BlueField-2 employs what Deieirling describes as a “jawbreaker security model” that is hard on the outside and hard on the inside. The SmartNIC acts as a coprocessor, which places a CPU in front of the CPU to manage bare metal and virtualized environments with SDN, he said. This enables security policies to be managed and operated by the SmartNIC.

While the ConnectX-6 Dx brings offload capabilities to the framework, the BlueField-2 takes things further by moving the security policy and creating an isolated security domain, Deierling explained.

“Bluefield really is bringing the hyperscale to the masses. It lets you provision bare metal like the cloud giants do,” he said. “All of the SDN and virtualization and bare metal cloud strategy, we brought that now to private cloud and enterprises and other tier-2 cloud vendors.”

According to Baron Fung, a director at Dell’Oro Group, the SmartNIC market is expected to grow at a 40% compound annual growth rate surpassing $500 million by 2023. “With cloud computing becoming the norm, enterprises increasingly rely on 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,” he said in a prepared statement.

Mellanox plans to announce pricing for the ConnectX-6 Dx and BlueField-2 SmartNICs when they are made available for purchase during Q4. “Ultimately we want every NIC in the data center to be a SmartNIC and to do that we really need to drive down our prices,” Deierling said.

The vendor also announced that its RDMA networking products for VMware vSphere will enable virtualized machine learning capabilities that increase the utilization and efficiency of graphics processing units (GPU). At VMworld the company claims that the Nvidia vComputeServer for virtualized GPUs achieves two times better efficiency by using VMware’s RDMA technology compared to traditional networking protocols.

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