A fun item spotted at FMS 2022 yesterday was the BittWare IA-220-U2 brings an Intel Agilex FPGA subsystem to a U.2 form factor, commonly used for 2.5″ NVMe SSDs. Recently, we highlighted the Silicom M20E3ISLB as an Intel QuickAssist PCH for a 2.5in U.2 Drive Tray. This is a few steps above in terms of adding flexible acceleration to 2.5″ drive bays.
BittWare IA-220-U2 Intel Agilex FPGA in U.2 at FMS 2022
The BittWare IA-220-U2 is a FPGA storage accelerator designed to fit in the same 2.5″ U.2 form factor as NVMe SSDs.
The FPGA is designed to work at PCIe Gen4 speeds and across AMD, Intel, Arm, and Power architectures using the same accelerator. It can offload crypto/ compression, erasure coding, and more on the device. If you see the Eideticom logo next to the BittWare/ Molex logo, that is because this device is used by the company in its NoLoad CSP offering. Effectively this FPGA can also be used to enabled P2P communication within a server. Here is the slide on that:
On the 2.5″ accelerator, there is an Intel Agilex AGF014 FPGA adn two DDR4-2400 banks.
Here is a shot of two important physical characteristics. There is a U.2 connector just like we commonly see on SSDs. There is also a fairly substantial heatsink. I was surprised picking it up with how heavy this is compared to a normal SSD like the Solidigm D7-P5520 7.68TB PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD we just review on x86 Arm and Power9 systems.
Here is a look at the accelerator from another angle with the labels facing the correct orientation.
In the future, these accelerators also like the Samsung Launches 512GB CXL Memory Module and SK hynix CXL 2.0 Memory Expansion Module will move to EDSFF, likely E3.S form factors that are better optimized for cooling in next-generation servers. We did a piece why EDSFF is the future some time ago before many of the PCIe Gen5/ CXL platforms were delayed.
Still, this is an interesting solution that we can see one day being adapted to next-generation form factors.
Something I miss about pre-pandemic days is seeing unique hardware solutions like this BittWare accelerator. The company announced its new CXL Agilex FPGA products, but did not have them at FMS 2022 so we did not see them on the show floor.
Still, there is a huge industry push to move acceleration to EDSFF. We are not seeing as many of the actual products out yet, but this is going to be an enormous industry change as the typical classification of “drive bays” in a server turn into not just drives but also memory and accelerators. That shift is going to begin in 2022-2023 so we are not far off. Not all PCIe devices will move to EDSFF just because of space and power constraints, but the number of vendors we are talking to that have plans for EDSFF acceleration is growing. Accelerators like this BittWare IA-220-U2 Intel Agilex in a 2.5″ U.2 form factor are in many ways ahead of this looming industry trend.
Are we going to see EDSFF NICs? Is there any real advantage to OCP for NICs?
I’d love to have 4 back-panel EDSFF bays that could be used for boot drives, NICs, low-power accelerators.