At STH, we are gearing up to do a summer series on Intel QuickAssist. As part of that, we came across something that was just interesting. The Silicom M20E3ISLB is an Intel QuickAssist accelerator in a 2.5″ U.2 drive form factor commonly associated with NVMe SSDs.
Silicom M20E3ISLB is Intel QuickAssist U.2
The M20E3ISLB looks almost like a 2.5″ NVMe SSD without its cover. Instead, the card is utilizing an Intel Lewisburg PCH mounted on a 2.5″ PCB with a SFF-8639 connector. Instead of cooling NAND, DRAM, and a SSD controller, the giant heatsink is dedicated to cooling the onboard PCH. Most Intel QuickAssist accelerators that are not integrated into a package (e.g. the Atom C2000, C3000, C5000/ P5000, and Intel Xeon D-1500, D-1600, D-1700, D-2100, D-2700 series) are actually based off of the PCH.
The newer Lewisburg IP is an upgrade to the Coleto Creek generation. Coleto Creek you may have seen in the Intel 8925, 8926, 8950 accelerators, and so forth. We used this for Intel QuickAssist Technology and OpenSSL – Benchmarks and Setup Tips and Intel QuickAssist at 40GbE Speeds: IPsec VPN Testing in 2016/ 2017.
Aside from the original Lewisburg chipsets, there were also the refresh versions that came out to support 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable Cooper Lake and Ice Lake CPUs.
The key to making this work was shown during the Skylake launch piece (linked above) in the PCIe Endpoint Mode from that launch’s slide below. The Lewisburg PCHs are designed to allow additional connectivity beyond just the normal DMI G3x4 link with PCIe Gen3 x8 and x16 options. The Silicom card is using just x4 because of the U.2 form factor. Fewer links also helps to lower power consumption to the 25W connector limit.
Another fun aspect of the Silicom M20E3ISLB is that its specs say it supports hot-swap capabilities.
Here are the specs from Silicom in terms of the performance based on each of the four versions of the Lewisburg PCH.
|LBG-L / LBG-T||LBG-M||LBG-E|
|SSL/IPSec||27Gbps (PCIe BW)||27Gbps (PCIe BW)||20Gbps|
|Compression Deflate||27Gbps (PCIe BW)||27Gbps (PCIe BW)||20Gbps|
|Decompression Deflate||27Gbps (PCIe BW)||27Gbps (PCIe BW)||27Gbps (PCIe BW)|
|RSA Decrypt 1k-bit||550K Ops/sec||550K Ops/sec||550K Ops/sec|
|RSA Decrypt 2k-bit||100 Ops/Sec||40 Ops/Sec||20 Ops/Sec|
|TLS Handshakes ECDH_RSA2K:||440K Ops/sec|
|TLS Handshakes EDHE+ECDSA||51K Ops/sec|
|SSL/IPSec + Compression + PKE||Total 120 Gbps +
In the spec table, LBG is Lewisburg, and the trailing letter is the model. We will notice that all but the LBG-E model can be limited by the PCIe bandwidth for compression and SSL/ IPSec workloads. Even the LBG-E runs into the PCIe bandwidth limit on compression. If you found yourself asking, which Lewisburg generations are possible in U.2, apparently Silicom has four different flavors:
Different SKUs offer different performance so that is why, even though they may seem similar, we get different SKUs here.
We had no idea that this even existed and just came across it while working on the summer series. For a holiday weekend, we thought it may be interesting to share with our readers. This is an example of an accelerator being placed into a SSD form factor. If you saw our E1 and E3 EDSFF to Take Over from M.2 and 2.5 in SSDs piece, the transition to the newer EDSFF form factors that can support higher power and cooling in a hot-swappable form factor will make more sense. U.2 was designed to fit alongside lower-performance SAS/ SATA, so there are thermal limits that this Silicom card pushes up against. Still, when we came across the M20E3ISLB we thought it was an interesting solution to add crypto and compression offload to a server and figured it would be a fun one to share.