back to article SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?

SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register. SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive …

  1. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    another issue..

    is these things will bring more bugs with them. Take for example iSCSI offload HBAs. They're quite common, perhaps almost universal on storage arrays, but on servers themselves they are rarely used(even if the capability is present, often is on recent systems regardless). While my systems primarily run on fibre channel storage(so I don't have a whole lot of recent iSCSI experience), I have read almost universally over the years the iSCSI offload HBAs are bug ridden and the general suggestion when using iSCSI is to use a software initiator(which by contrast gives far better results in most cases).

    I remember my first experience with hardware iSCSI on a 3PAR E200 storage array in 2006. The NIC on the array (Qlogic dual port 1Gbps) had an issue where it would lock up under high load. I managed to mitigate the problem for a long time by manually balancing paths with MPIO (this was before ESX had round robin). Then maybe a month before I quit that job I rebooted the ESX hosts for software updates, and forgot to re balance the paths again. Major issues after a couple of weeks. I remember my last day at the company I had to hand the support case off to a co-worker as the issue was not yet resolved(and was pretty critical impacting production). A couple of weeks later that company replaced all the iSCSI with fibre channel to solve the issue(a patch ended up being made available a few weeks after that). Felt bad to leave them hanging but my next job started pretty quick I couldn't stick around.

    I have read several complaints over the years about network cards with TCP offload enabled causing other unexpected issues as well and in many cases the suggestion is to disable the offload. It makes it more difficult to diagnose when you run a packet capture on the VM or on the host and the data differs from what is actually going over the wire because the NIC is doing stuff to the packets before it goes over the wire.

    So beyond cost, these Smart NIC people need to be sure their stuff is really robust for enterprises to consider adopting them. Hyperscalers have the staff and knowledge to deal with that extra complexity. Given history I am not really holding my breath that these vendors will be up to the task. But they could find use cases in tightly vertically integrated solutions that are sold to enterprises, rather than a generic component that you can put in your average server.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: another issue..

      No disagreement from me. If you’re putting something complex in HW, it had better be right. And obviously customers placing orders for 1M units get more engineering attention on customized features.

      Might be a good idea to focus on vendors that offer flexible / reprogrammable devices… Some SmartNICs are more flexible than others…

  2. andrewmm

    High Speed traiding

    These Smart NICs are used almost entirely

    in high performance trading,

    The few ns they save means a trade can be made ahead of the opposition

    The trade is done "on the NIC"

    which is following the rules set by the "AI"

  3. Androgynous Cow Herd

    TL:DR version

    Guy paid to shill SmartNICs says you need SmartNIcs

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