The new Mellanox Innova-2 is a device full of features and innovation. First off, it is a Mellanox ConnectX-5 based dual-port 25GbE adapter which itself is far from revolutionary. Onboard is also a Xilinx Kintex UltraScale XCKU15P FPGA. The product is designed to service either FPGA as a service architectures or those where the FPGA is doing network processing work augmentin the ConnectX-5 ASIC.
Mellanox Innova-2 Overview
We did some digging and found this Mellanox Innova-2 architecture diagram that shows what is going on, complete with Microsoft Office trying to autocorrect “SFP”:
Mellanox starts by leading the way in connectivity. The Innova-2 has both PCIe 4.0 x8 host connectivity and dual port SFP28 25GbE capabilities. An onboard PCIe switch allows admins to configure the card either with the Xilinx FPGA in the path of network traffic for high-speed packet processing or as a device meant to be exposed to the host system and the network for compute offload. The Xilinx FPGA has 4GB of onboard DDR4-2400 memory.
Overall, this is a compact package and an alternative to what Intel is offering with the Intel Arria 10 GX FPGA Card for Servers Released. Instead of all Intel (plus Altera) IP, one gets both Xilinx and Mellanox IP and one can easily see how, given the ConnectX-5 family features, this can be scaled for customers to meet different needs.
Traditionally FPGAs have been used in communications applications yet they are finding new uses. For example, Microsoft Project Brainwave is using FPGAs in a somewhat analogous setup to provide high throughput, low latency FPGAs as a service for deep learning / AI inferencing applications at a massive scale. This card provides a unique alternative to the Intel solution.