Is the Future in FPGA technology?
Our industry is very adept at re-inventing solutions to problems and finding pragmatic ways to make visions implementable. The vision of cloud enabled applications running in data centres with generic hardware has a certain elegance to it however not all work-loads are a perfect fit to this vision. Progress migrating network control plane and OSS/BSS applications onto NFVi is steady however true high density data plane applications are still often implemented on custom silicon sold by large vendors.
That may change as the telco community take inspiration from the innovation being delivered from the web-scale players such as Microsoft and Amazon. At the recent Microsoft Build conference, the CTO of Azure, Mark Russinovich gave a presentation describing the future Inside the Microsoft FPGA-based configurable cloud. If you watch the presentation you will see Mark explain in very clear terms the differences between different generic CPU’s and more specialised hardware options such as FPGA’s and ASIC’s. In simplest terms, the use of an FPGA enables the system designer to build massively parallel processing with very good data throughput and power-consumption compared to generic CPU’s.
The key to understanding why this is of interest to us, is that our vision to move these high-density data plane applications onto ETSI NFVi is difficult to implement with generic CPU platforms. The high-density routing devices built by the top tier router vendors all use highly parallel network processing in custom hardware and generic CPU’s cannot compete with these platforms in terms of performance and density. The integration of FPGA’s that can be programmed by the VNF vendor into this architecture will allow much higher performance for network data intensive applications running on NFVi and may accelerate a migration to that architecture.
It’s not only telco applications that can benefit from this FPGA technology but also Big Data applications can benefit from the sort of massive parallelism that FPGA’s could afford.
Unico believes that complex business problems require innovative solutions and choosing the best tool for the job. Our Big Data solutions today solve a variety of real-world business problems and we are constantly assessing the best technologies to deliver business benefit. Time will tell whether FPGA based solutions will become part of the future ‘best practice’.
Get in touch with Unico to speak to a specialist about how we can help drive your IT innovation.