Packet and Netronome teamed up on microservers built for cloud-native and edge workloads. The jointly designed hardware uses Netronome’s SmartNICs (network interface cards) and will be deployed across Packet’s bare metal cloud and edge sites. And it is built for the Open19 Foundation infrastructure platform.
“Moore’s Law isn’t scaling the way it used to,” said Ron Renwick, senior director of products and product marketing at Netronome.
Because of this slowdown in server performance, coupled with lessons learned from cloud giants, hardware is evolving to take advantage of new disaggregated architectures, said Jacob Smith, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Packet. “Design the hardware around the software, versus the software around the hardware,” he said.
“We are bringing some of the key lessons the hyperscalers are currently deploying at scale, for their reasons like efficiency and price, and we’re bringing it to really different use cases,” he continued. He’s talking about edge-based technologies and applications like IoT, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and 5G. These types of use cases require ultra-low latency, advanced security, low cost and power requirements, and massive compute power.
“5G is like the first edge use case,” Smith said. “With 5G rollouts, telcos have to move compute into their regional markets. They can’t backhaul it all because it’s too cost inefficient. And they have to disaggregate their architecture, which means putting a lot more servers in a lot more places.”
This is where the Open19 form factor comes into play. It’s a disaggregated platform designed to fit any 19-inch rack environment for servers, storage, and networking. LinkedIn deployed Open19 technology in its data center. And in September it open-sourced the project, contributing it to the Open19 Foundation.
Packet also uses Open19 infrastructure. Smith said this is necessary when its customers including “Sprint are asking us to do 50 to 100 markets. That’s why we are investing in Open19. It’s an operational model that makes sense in a sub-scale, regional situation, particularly as we go to the true edge of the network.”
The new microservers support multiple architectures including Intel x86, AMD, and Ampere’s Arm-based chips. And like the name suggests they are ultra-compact, with a low-power design (less than 100W per microserver). Up to 120 microservers can fit in a single 42U rack, making them ideal for edge locations. They also provide tenant isolation needed in a bare metal environment.
The integrated, programmable Netronome SmartNICs provide up to 25Gb/s throughput and offload network processing from servers. This frees up more CPU cores to enable more compute capacity. The SmartNICs are also smaller than traditional NICs and provide better power efficiency.
“So for an edge cloud use case, we can enable the use of smaller CPUs, better cost efficiency, and better power efficiency because we are offloading the networking,” Renwick said. “It lines up very clearly with the way we think the industry is going.”
It also gives developers access to deep network acceleration capabilities through the use of eBPF programming. This gives developers kernel-based access to push code related to switching, security, or load balancing, for example, onto the NIC instead of running it on the CPU.