Click here to close now.


Agile Computing Authors: SmartBear Blog, Anders Wallgren, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Industrial IoT, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo, Apache

Containers Expo Blog: 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 currently a Senior Solutions Architect at StackIQ, Inc. He is also working with Mesamundi on D20PRO, and is a member of the Stacki Open Source project. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing, and IT management. 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
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity. Should we federate, or not? How should identity be secured? Who owns the identity? How is identity ...
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of at least three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the backend big-data service, and the mobile application for the end user's controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target - this makes the integration of these separate pipelines and the coordination of software upd...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting will feature upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special IoT documentary which will be filmed on the expo floor November 3 to 5, 2015 in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to BBC in UK and the largest in Asia with many award winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley. The program will be aired during the highest viewership season of the year that it will have a high impact in the industry through this documentary in Japan. The film...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, will look at different existing uses of peer-to-peer data sharing and how it can become useful in a live session to...
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Luxoft Holding, Inc., a leading provider of software development services and innovative IT solutions, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Luxoft’s software development services consist of core and mission-critical custom software development and support, product engineering and testing, and technology consulting.
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief Architect at CTS, will explore the synergy of Big Data and IoT. First he will take a closer look at the Internet of Things and Big Data individually, in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. Then he will explore the relationship between IoT and Big Data. Specifically, he will drill down to how the 4Vs aspects intersect with IoT: Volume, Variety, Velocity and Value. In turn, Tony will analyze how the key components of IoT influence Big Data: Device, Connectivity, Context, and Intelligence. He will dive deep to the matrix...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT’s direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Building actually breathes - immediately flagging overheating in a closet or over cooling in unoccupied ho...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
Scott Guthrie's keynote presentation "Journey to the intelligent cloud" is a must view video. This is from AzureCon 2015, September 29, 2015 I have reproduced some screen shots in case you are unable to view this long video for one reason or another. One of the highlights is 3 datacenters coming on line in India.
“The Internet of Things transforms the way organizations leverage machine data and gain insights from it,” noted Splunk’s CTO Snehal Antani, as Splunk announced accelerated momentum in Industrial Data and the IoT. The trend is driven by Splunk’s continued investment in its products and partner ecosystem as well as the creativity of customers and the flexibility to deploy Splunk IoT solutions as software, cloud services or in a hybrid environment. Customers are using Splunk® solutions to collect and correlate data from control systems, sensors, mobile devices and IT systems for a variety of Ind...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...