Welcome!

SOA & WOA Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, Aria Blog

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 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 Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
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.
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.
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
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 ...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
"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.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
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.
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.
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
“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...