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Just in the NIC of time, Dell and Netronome enter NFV pact

More functions, fewer servers - and Dell is good with this!

By Richard Chirgwin

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NIC vendor Netronome and Dell have inked a deal targeting the network function virtualization market.

Netronome told The Register's networking desk the deal brings to Dell the kind of network processing offload more common in the high-performance computing market.

By shifting network processing to the Netronome Agilo 25 Gbps Ethernet NICs, the company's Ron Renwick said users can build bigger network function virtualization (NFV) environments with fewer servers.

Renwick said NFV implementers can find it hard to get the full benefits of virtualisation. Instead, adding new virtual machines or virtual network functions (VNFs), they end up losing the big advantage of virtualisation – the ability to fire up many VMs per server.

“Whether you're running vEPC (virtual enhanced packet core) [or] virtual base stations, the challenge with most NFV deployments is not so much doing it, but that at scale the apps are so large they end up running a server per VNF,” Renwick explained.

Netronome's silicon has 60 cores able to run 480 concurrent threads, and the company claims its NICs can deliver a 20-fold performance improvement compared to what's possible on a single-core NIC.

The NFV platform is based on PowerEdge R630 dual 12-core Xeon processors, with the Agilo 2x25 Gbps Ethernet SmartNIC running the company's own operating system and vRouting software.

The NIC's offload capability gives sysadmins a couple of other handy capabilities, like upgrading networking software without having to take down a server.

“You can continuously upgrade the product by adding features that don't exist in most network cards today” he said, and users don't have to wait for networking vendors to program new capabilities onto silicon. ®

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