At VMworld 2019 we saw the launch of the Mellanox ConnectX-6 Dx SmartNIC. Although NVIDIA is set to Acquire Mellanox, as of now, they are executing on their respective product plans. For Mellanox, that means extending a lead in networking. To that end, the Mellanox ConnectX-6 announced a new feature putting it further ahead of offerings like the Intel Ethernet 800 series.
Mellanox ConnectX-6 Dx SmartNIC
Mellanox tends to introduce its first adapters that can handle a given line rate. The company then adds subsequent generations that include additional features. With this generation, the headline feature is the ability to do more cryptography offload, including a specific use case that we have heard some clamor about.
Previously, Mellanox had RoCE support. That is important for applications such as NVMeoF. However, if one used the NIC to encrypt traffic, it would mean losing RoCE as some of the important RoCE bits would also be encrypted. As a result, one would have to take additional steps to configure RoCE on the network. ConnectX-6 Dx makes RoCE and easier choice to integrate into an existing network.
With this generation, the Mellanox ConnectX-6 Dx can handle IPsec and TLS crypto offload and RoCE. For those building GPU compute over Ethernet or NVMeoF, the ability to maintain RoCE features while also offloading cryptography is a welcome addition.
The Mellanox ASAP technology is designed for faster switching and packet processing. Examples of this functionality are hardware SR-IOV and VirtIO offloads. Supports up to 1 million rules. Also, ASAP helps offload stateful connection tracking.
Mellanox ConnectX-6 Dx SmartNIC Key Features
The entire Mellanox ConnectX-6 Dx range is PCIe Gen4 capable except for the MCX621102AN-ACAT (low profile) and an OCP 2.0 generation card that is also 2x 25GbE. The higher-end cards can offer either dual 100GbE or a single 200GbE port with options scaling down to 25GbE speeds. Here are some of the other key features of the platform:
- Up to 200Gb/s bandwidth, PAM4/NRZ
- Message rate of up to 215MPPS
- ASAP Accelerated switching and packet processing for Virtual Switches/Routers
- IPsec and TLS in-line crypto acceleration
- Block crypto acceleration for data-at-rest
- Hardware Root-of-Trust and secure firmware update
- Advanced RoCE capabilities
- Platform agnostic: x86, Power, Arm
For those that want to see it, here is Mellanox’s video on the ConnectX-6 Dx: