Welcome!

.NET Authors: ITinvolve Blog, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Sematext Blog, Aditya Banerjee, Jayaram Krishnaswamy

Related Topics: Virtualization, XML, SOA & WOA, Web 2.0, Cloud Expo, Apache

Virtualization: Blog Feed Post

Bare Metal Blog: FPGAs: Reaping the Benefits

All the goodness FPGAs bring hardware in general, and ADO hardware in particular.

All the goodness FPGAs bring hardware in general, and ADO hardware in particular.

In two previous installments, I talked at a high level about the uses of FPGAs, risk mitigation, and the potential benefits. Today I’d like to delve into the benefits that the industry in general, and F5 in particular, gain from using FPGAs, and why it matters to IT. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I try not to be a chorus line for F5 solutions, but don’t shy away from talking about them when it fits the topic. That will continue with this post. While I will use F5 for the specifics, the benefits can be generalized to the bulk of the industry.

Used to be, way back in the day, everyone walked everywhere. That worked for a long period of world history. The horse was adopted for longer trips, and it about doubled travel speed, but still, the bulk of the world populace walked nearly all of the time. Then along came cars, and they enabled a whole lot of things. One of the great benefits that the automobile introduced was the ability to be more agile. By utilizing the machinery, you could move from one town to another relatively quickly. You could even work in a town 30 miles – a days’ walk for a physically fit person – from your home. At this point in human – or at least first world – history, walking is a mode of transportation that is rarely used for important events. There are some cities so tightly packed that walking makes sense, but for most of us, we take a car the vast majority of the time. When speed is not of the essence – say when you take a walk with a loved one – the car is left behind, but for day-to-day transport, the car is the go-to tool.

There is a corollary to this phenomenon in the Application Delivery world. While in some scenarios, a software ADC will do the trick, there are benefits to hardware that mean if you have it, you’ll use the hardware much more frequently. This is true of far more than ADCs, but bear with me, I do work for an ADC vendor Winking smile. There are some things that can just be done more efficiently in hardware, and some things that are best left (normally due to complexity) to software. In the case of FPGAs, low-level operations that do a lot of repetitive actions are relatively easily implemented – even to the point of FPGA and/or programming tools for FPGAs coming with certain pre-built layouts at this point. As such, certain network processing that is latency-sensitive and can be done with little high-level logic are well suited to FPGA processing. When a packet can be processed in X micro-seconds in FPGA, or in X^3 milliseconds by the time it passes through the hardware, DMA transfer, firmware/network stack, and finally lands in software that can manipulate it, definitely go with the FPGA option if possible.

And that’s where a lot of the benefits of FPGAs in the enterprise are being seen. Of course you don’t want to have your own FPGA shop and have to maintain your own installation program to reap the benefits. But vendors have sets of hardware that are largely the same and are produced en-masse. It makes sense that they would make use of FPGAs, and they do. Get that packet off the wire, and if it meets certain criteria, turn it around and get it back on the wire with minor modifications.

But that’s not all. While it was a great step to be able to utilize FPGAs in this manner and not have to pay the huge up-front fees of getting an ASIC designed and a run of them completed, the use of FPGAs didn’t stop there – indeed, it is still growing and changing. The big area that has really grown the usage of ever-larger FPGAs is in software assistance. Much like BIOS provides discrete functionality that software can call to achieve a result, FPGAs can define functions with register interface that are called directly from software – not as a solution, but as an incremental piece of the solution. This enables an increase in the utilization of FPGAs and if the functions are chosen carefully, an improvement in the overall performance of the system the FPGAs are there to support. It is, essentially, offloading workload from software. When that offload is of computationally intensive operations, the result can be a huge performance improvement. Where a software solution might have a function call, hardware can just do register writes and reads, leaving the system resources less taxed. Of course if the operation requires a lot of data storage memory, it still will, which is why I mentioned “computationally expensive”.

The key thing is to ask your vendor (assuming they use FPGAs) what they’re doing with them, and what benefit you see. It is a truth that the vast majority of vendors go to FPGAs for their own benefit, but that is not exclusive of making things better for customers. So ask them how you, as a customer, benefit.

And when you wonder why a VM can’t perform every bit as well as custom hardware, well the answer is at least partially above. The hardware functionality of custom devices must be implemented in software for a VM, and that software then runs on not one, but two operating systems, and eventually calls general purpose hardware. While VMs, like feet, are definitely good for some uses, when you need your app to be the fastest it can possibly be, hardware – specifically FPGA enhanced hardware – is the best answer, much as the car is the best answer for daily travel in most of the world. Each extra layer – generic hardware, the host operating system, the virtual network, and the guest operating system – adds cost to processing. The lack of an FPGA does too, because those low-level operations must be performed in software.

So know your needs, use the right tool for the job. I would not drive a car to my neighbors’ house – 200 feet away – nor would I walk from Green Bay to Cincinnati (just over 500 miles). Know what your needs are and your traffic is like, then ask about FPGA usage. And generalize this… To network switches, WAPs, you name it. You’re putting it into your network, so that IS your business.

Walking in Ust-Donetsk

And yeah, you’ll hear more on this topic before I wrap up the Bare Metal Blog series, but for now, keep doing what you do so well, and I’ll be back with more on testing soon.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is Founder of Ingrained Technology, LLC, specializing in Development, Devops, and Cloud Strategy. Previously, he was a Technical Marketing Manager at F5 Networks. As an industry veteran, MacVittie has extensive programming experience along with project management, IT management, and systems/network administration expertise.

Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was a Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing, where he conducted product research and evaluated storage and server systems, as well as development and outsourcing solutions. He has authored numerous articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness, and in-car entertainment and this excitement will bleed into other areas. On the commercial side, m...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
“With easy-to-use SDKs for Atmel’s platforms, IoT developers can now reap the benefits of realtime communication, and bypass the security pitfalls and configuration complexities that put IoT deployments at risk,” said Todd Greene, founder & CEO of PubNub. PubNub will team with Atmel at CES 2015 to launch full SDK support for Atmel’s MCU, MPU, and Wireless SoC platforms. Atmel developers now have access to PubNub’s secure Publish/Subscribe messaging with guaranteed ¼ second latencies across PubNub’s 14 global points-of-presence. PubNub delivers secure communication through firewalls, proxy ser...
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.