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Line cards target Linux-based storage appliances

Apr 24, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Chipmaker Cavium Networks is shipping a family of PCI-X cards aimed at increasing throughput of network and storage appliances based on commodity x86-based designs. The Octeon XL Accelerator cards feature multi-core MIPS64-based processors, throughputs between 500Mbps and 6Gbps, and are supported by a MontaVista Linux… BSP, according to the company.

(Click for larger view of Cavium Octeon XL Pro)

The Octeon XL cards are full-height, half-length, 64bit/133MHz PCI-X cards powered by chips from Cavium's Octeon line of multi-core network processors. The boards do not appear to run an operating system of their own, although a lightweight “executive” is available for pure signal-processing applications, Cavium says. Instead, the Octeon cards come with a portable PCI-X driver that supports various x86 host OSes, and offers APIs for compression/decompression, SSL, TCP, IPsec, and crypto processing, all of which (and more) are supported by hardware accelerators on the card.

Additionally, Cavium offers a Linux software development kit (SDK) that can be used to extend the drivers' API, in order to add proprietary features. The SDK supports C development, and includes a MontaVista BSP, GNU tool-chain, and GDB. Additionally, C++ support is available through third-party toolchains, Cavium says.

The Octeon XL cards are available in three product families, which Cavium describes as follows:

  • The CPBs (Coprocessor boards) include an Octeon CN38XX Multi-core MIPS64 Processor, with integrated acceleration engines for packet processing, QoS, TCP, security, and compression/decompression. Dual ECC-protected, Mini-DIMM DDR2 memory slots provide 512MB to 8GB of capacity at DDR2-533 or DDR2-667 rates. The cards integrate serial and E-JTAG ports for user console and debug connectivity.
  • The NIC (network interface) cards add four RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet ports to the CPB feature set, to enable inline NIC (network interface card) as well as host offload processing.
  • The NICPro boards add features “to support the highest level of acceleration and high-availability, including 256MB RLDRAM2 for pattern matching/RegEx acceleration, SPI4.2 system connector enabling cascading of multiple cards, and unique GbE LAN bypass functionality to provide automatic port bypass on failure”

Cavium claims performance as follows for its Octeon XL family boards:

  • Compression/decompression to 6Gbps for GZIP, PKZIP, and variant protocols with unmatched compression ratios. Compression ratios exceed 4:1 for typical web traffic
  • SSL and IPsec processing up to 10Gbps
  • RSA Performance of up to 16,000 RSA operations/s
  • TCP offload performance of up to 10Gbps
  • Pattern-matching up to 4Gbps

Rajiv Khemani, VP of marketing, stated, “These cards will fuel multi-gigabit rates in a broad range of systems, without requiring hardware re-design.”

Bob Wheeler, a senior analyst with the Linley Group, stated, “Unlike conventional crypto cards, the Octeon cards enable OEMs to offload additional CPU-intensive functions such as TCP termination and compression.”

Availability

Octeon XL cards are sampling now. When they reach availability, pricing will range between $700 and $2000, in 1K quantities.

Cavium began sampling its Octeon chip family in August of last year, amidst great fanfare, saying the multi-core MIPS64-based chips would help reduce BOM (bill-of-materials) costs, through their ability to handle both data- and control-plane processing. It shipped 10 Octeon chip models in January of this year.


 
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