Mellanox BlueField is a hot topic this week. One of the major announcements at FMS 2018 is the availability of the Mellanox BlueField BF1600 and BF1700 NVMeoF controllers. These controllers allow companies to build NVMeoF solutions either for next-generation platforms using ARM CPUs or as SmartNICs.
The BlueField SoCs are powered by 64-bit ARM A72 cores and combine dual 100GbE networking, PCIe Gen4 switching, compute, and hardware accelerators. Mellanox is targeting a number of different deployment scenarios. A key one is the disaggregated server model where compute accesses external NVMeoF storage nodes.
Mellanox, by adding compute and accelerators into the mix, is also able to take the BlueField solutions and run a more traditional active-active SAN architecture.
The key here is that Mellanox has PCIe Gen4 switching and dual 100Gbps Ethernet or Infiniband before this is all integrated into x86 platforms.
What is Mellanox BlueField?
The central idea behind Mellanox BlueField is that provides a 16 core ARM (Cortex A72) CPU along with an integrated PCIe switch and a Mellanox ConnectX-5 networking IP base to provide a complete solution for NVMeoF storage appliances.
For systems integrators, this means there is no need to build a solution around an x86 CPU and chipset, a PCIe Gen4 switch, and then add a Mellanox ConnectX-5 100GbE/ EDR Infiniband adapter. This solution combines the above and has hardware acceleration for much of the NVMeoF stack.
Mellanox BlueField BF1600 and BF1700 Press Release
Here is a lightly edited excerpt from the original press release. We normally do not include customer quotes in the press releases we publish in part. In this case we are going to because it is an absolutely impressive list of industry partners getting behind the BlueField solution:
Mellanox Technologies, Ltd. (NASDAQ: MLNX), a leading supplier of high-performance, end-to-end smart interconnect solutions for data center servers and storage systems, today introduced new BlueField-based storage controllers, which are being showcased this week at the Flash Memory Summit conference. These controllers offer ultra-high performance for Ethernet Storage Fabrics, along with extreme efficiency and programmable virtualization for NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF), empowering customers to build and deploy the world’s fastest and most flexible networked flash storage solutions.
The BlueField BF1600 and BF1700 storage controllers deliver over 4 million IOPS with NVMe-oF, up to 200Gb/s of network and PCIe bandwidth, and network ports configurable as either Ethernet or InfiniBand. They provide leading performance for NVMe over RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet), InfiniBand, and TCP/IP, and include smart offloads for storage including NVMe-oF, erasure coding, and T10-DIF data integrity signatures. The BlueField SoC integrates the award winning ConnectX-5 network adapter with sixteen 64-bit Arm cores to create a fully-programmable environment for storage software such as compression, encryption, RAID, and virtualization. The new BlueField storage controllers improve the performance and efficiency and extend the capabilities of Ethernet Storage Fabrics. In addition they fully support advanced InfiniBand-based storage solutions.
“Storage, server, and cloud customers are telling us they need faster, more efficient ways to network and virtualize NVMe flash,” said Kevin Deierling, vice president of marketing at Mellanox Technologies. “These BlueField storage controllers tightly-integrate flash connectivity, networking, and Arm processors to maximize performance and efficiency, while eliminating the need for a separate CPU in storage and hyperconverged appliances. This makes them perfect for connecting and virtualizing the fastest non-volatile storage.”
BlueField storage controller cards are sampling today with fully qualified solutions expected in Q4. The cards are being integrated into storage systems by multiple original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original design manufacturers (ODMs). All BlueField storage controllers, SmartNICs, and development systems include the ability to accelerate NVMe-oF…
E8 Storage: “E8 Storage delivers revolutionary, shared NVMe storage solutions via our patented software running on top of Mellanox Ethernet Storage Fabric technology,” said Ziv Serlin, VP of Architecture and Co-Founder at E8 Storage. “We are excited to be working with Mellanox to incorporate the integrated networking and Arm CPU capabilities in BlueField SmartNICs into our solutions, providing greater performance and efficiency to our customers.”
Excelero: “Mellanox ConnectX adapters and Spectrum switches already help power the distributed, extremely fast, and software-defined Excelero NVMesh,” said Yaniv Romem, CTO and Co-Founder at Excelero. “BlueField offers an exciting combination of high-speed networking, NVMe storage virtualization, and programmable cores that can enable client-side offloads for Excelero NVMesh and free up more CPU for applications. We are already testing BlueField SmartNICs and look forward to working with Mellanox to give customers the best possible converged and disaggregated NVMe storage solutions.”
Kaminario: “Kaminario Cloud Fabric is built to provide extreme flexibility and scalability through high-performance software-defined storage for our customers” said Eyal David, CTO at Kaminario. “We leverage Mellanox adapters in our storage nodes to support RoCE in an Ethernet Storage Fabric, and BlueField controllers enable us to deliver higher performance and efficiency to maximize the benefits of NVMe over Fabrics.”
Microsemi: “Microsemi and Mellanox have worked together to enable high-performance storage and server solutions,” said Andrew Dieckmann, vice president of marketing for data center solutions at Microsemi, a wholly owned subsidiary of Microchip Technology.“BlueField’s target application space in networked storage and integration of PCIe Gen 4 makes it an excellent platform for deployment with Microsemi Switchtec PCIe switches, including our latest Switchtec PCIe Gen 4 switches offering the lowest latency, lowest power and highest reliability in the industry. We look forward to continuing our work with Mellanox BlueField as we expand our family of innovative Switchtec, Flashtec, SmartRAID and SmartHBA devices.”
NetApp: “NetApp has long used Mellanox network controllers to support server connectivity, including NVMe-oF on our E-series arrays,” said Robin Huber, VP E-Series Storage Group at NetApp. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with Mellanox as we continue to roll out our portfolio of NVMe over Fabrics support.”
Samsung: “NVMe over Fabrics and increasingly fast networking represents an important approach to connecting NVMe SSDs with next-gen servers in enterprise and cloud data centers,” said Ilker Cebeli, Senior Director, Memory Product Planning, Samsung Semiconductor, Inc. “As Samsung delivers faster NVMe SSDs with technology like Z-NAND™, we intend to continue working closely with Mellanox ConnectX-5 adapters and BlueField controllers to create high-performance reference designs and validate technologies like Ethernet Storage Fabric.”
SK hynix: “SK hynix’s PE6000 series supports NVMe over Fabrics using Mellanox adapters and new NVMe features,” said Jason Jinsoo Kang, VP, Head of NAND Product Planning Office at SK hynix. “Visit SK hynix Booth 107 at Flash Memory Summit to see a live demo of NVMe-oF (NVMe-over-Fabrics) using SK hynix’s NVMe SSD with Mellanox ConnectX-5 network adapters and a Mellanox Spectrum Ethernet switch.”
Toshiba: “High-speed networking and RDMA using RoCE on Mellanox adapters are already part of the Toshiba KumoScale™ NVMe-oF™ solution,” said Sudhakar Mungamoori, Director of Cloud Technology Solutions at Toshiba Memory America, Inc. “Mellanox is showing great innovation with their BlueField storage controllers, which can enable NVMe™ over Fabrics to run entirely on a single, integrated card.”
Western Digital: “Mellanox BlueField shows great promise as an NVMe storage controller,” said Scott Hamilton, senior director, product management, Western Digital’s Data Center Systems business unit. “As Western Digital innovates around new storage solutions and data center architectures, we look forward to working with Mellanox to help enable high-performance infrastructures for today and into the future.”
What sort of density improvement could be expect? Compare to Intel’s “ruler” which is already 1PB per 1U.