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Archive for the ‘Data Center’ Category

November 6th, 2017

The USR-Alliance – Enabling an Open Multi-Chip Module (MCM) Ecosystem

By Gidi Navon, System Architect, Marvell

The semiconductor industry is witnessing exponential growth and rapid changes to its bandwidth requirements, as well as increasing design complexity, emergence of new processes and integration of multi-disciplinary technologies. All this is happening against a backdrop of shorter development cycles and fierce competition. Other technology-driven industry sectors, such as software and hardware, are addressing similar challenges by creating open alliances and open standards. This blog does not attempt to list all the open alliances that now exist —  the Open Compute Project, Open Data Path and the Linux Foundation are just a few of the most prominent examples. One technological area that still hasn’t embraced such open collaboration is Multi-Chip-Module (MCM), where multiple semiconductor dies are packaged together, thereby creating a combined system in a single package.

The MCM concept has been around for a while, generating multiple technological and market benefits, including:

  • Improved yield – Instead of creating large monolithic dies with low yield and higher cost (which sometimes cannot even be fabricated), splitting the silicon into multiple die can significantly improve the yield of each building block and the combined solution. Better yield consequently translates into reductions in costs.
  • Optimized process – The final MCM product is a mix-and-match of units in different fabrication processes which enables optimizing of the process selection for specific IP blocks with similar characteristics.
  • Multiple fabrication plants – Different fabs, each with its own unique capabilities, can be utilized to create a given product.
  • Product variety – New products are easily created by combining different numbers and types of devices to form innovative and cost‑optimized MCMs.
  • Short product cycle time – Dies can be upgraded independently, which promotes ease in the addition of new product capabilities and/or the ability to correct any issues within a given die. For example, integrating a new type of I/O interface can be achieved without having to re-spin other parts of the solution that are stable and don’t require any change (thus avoiding waste of time and money).
  • Economy of scale – Each die can be reused in multiple applications and products, increasing its volume and yield as well as the overall return on the initial investment made in its development.

Sub-dividing large semiconductor devices and mounting them on an MCM has now become the new printed circuit board (PCB) – providing smaller footprint, lower power, higher performance and expanded functionality.

Now, imagine that the benefits listed above are not confined to a single chip vendor, but instead are shared across the industry as a whole. By opening and standardizing the interface between dies, it is possible to introduce a true open platform, wherein design teams in different companies, each specializing in different technological areas, are able to create a variety of new products beyond the scope of any single company in isolation.

This is where the USR Alliance comes into action. The alliance has defined an Ultra Short Reach (USR) link, optimized for communication across the very short distances between the components contained in a single package. This link provides high bandwidth with less power and smaller die size than existing very short reach (VSR) PHYs which cross package boundaries and connectors and need to deal with challenges that simply don’t exist inside a package. The USR PHY is based on a multi-wire differential signaling technique optimized for MCM environments.

There are many applications in which the USR link can be implemented. Examples include CPUs, switches and routers, FPGAs, DSPs, analog components and a variety of long reach electrical and optical interfaces.

Figure 1: Example of a possible MCM layout

Marvell is an active promoter member of the USR Alliance and is working to create an ecosystem of interoperable components, interconnects, protocols and software that will help the semiconductor industry bring more value to the market.  The alliance is working on creating PHY, MAC and software standards and interoperability agreements in collaboration with the industry and other standards development organizations, and is promoting the development of a full ecosystem around USR applications (including certification programs) to ensure widespread interoperability.

To learn more about the USR Alliance visit: www.usr-alliance.org

October 3rd, 2017

Celebrating 20 Years of Wi-Fi – Part I

By Prabhu Loganathan, Senior Director of Marketing for Connectivity Business Unit, Marvell

You can’t see it, touch it, or hear it – yet Wi-Fi® has had a tremendous impact on the modern world – and will continue to do so. From our home wireless networks, to offices and public spaces, the ubiquity of high speed connectivity without reliance on cables has radically changed the way computing happens. It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that because of ready access to Wi-Fi, we are consequently able to lead better lives – using our laptops, tablets and portable electronics goods in a far more straightforward, simplistic manner with a high degree of mobility, no longer having to worry about a complex tangle of wires tying us down.

Though it may be hard to believe, it is now two decades since the original 802.11 standard was ratified by the IEEE®. This first in a series of blogs will look at the history of Wi-Fi to see how it has overcome numerous technical challenges and evolved into the ultra-fast, highly convenient wireless standard that we know today. We will then go on to discuss what it may look like tomorrow.

Unlicensed Beginnings
While we now think of 802.11 wireless technology as predominantly connecting our personal computing devices and smartphones to the Internet, it was in fact initially invented as a means to connect up humble cash registers. In the late 1980s, NCR Corporation, a maker of retail hardware and point-of-sale (PoS) computer systems, had a big problem. Its customers – department stores and supermarkets – didn’t want to dig up their floors each time they changed their store layout.

A recent ruling that had been made by the FCC, which opened up certain frequency bands as free to use, inspired what would be a game-changing idea. By using wireless connections in the unlicensed spectrum (rather than conventional wireline connections), electronic cash registers and PoS systems could be easily moved around a store without the retailer having to perform major renovation work.

Soon after this, NCR allocated the project to an engineering team out of its Netherlands office. They were set the challenge of creating a wireless communication protocol. These engineers succeeded in developing ‘WaveLAN’, which would be recognized as the precursor to Wi-Fi. Rather than preserving this as a purely proprietary protocol, NCR could see that by establishing it as a standard, the company would be able to position itself as a leader in the wireless connectivity market as it emerged. By 1990, the IEEE 802.11 working group had been formed, based on wireless communication in unlicensed spectra.

Using what were at the time innovative spread spectrum techniques to reduce interference and improve signal integrity in noisy environments, the original incarnation of Wi-Fi was finally formally standardized in 1997. It operated with a throughput of just 2 Mbits/s, but it set the foundations of what was to come.

Wireless Ethernet
Though the 802.11 wireless standard was released in 1997, it didn’t take off immediately. Slow speeds and expensive hardware hampered its mass market appeal for quite a while – but things were destined to change. 10 Mbit/s Ethernet was the networking standard of the day. The IEEE 802.11 working group knew that if they could equal that, they would have a worthy wireless competitor. In 1999, they succeeded, creating 802.11b. This used the same 2.4 GHz ISM frequency band as the original 802.11 wireless standard, but it raised the throughput supported considerably, reaching 11 Mbits/s. Wireless Ethernet was finally a reality.

Soon after 802.11b was established, the IEEE working group also released 802.11a, an even faster standard. Rather than using the increasingly crowded 2.4 GHz band, it ran on the 5 GHz band and offered speeds up to a lofty 54 Mbits/s.

Because it occupied the 5 GHz frequency band, away from the popular (and thus congested) 2.4 GHz band, it had better performance in noisy environments; however, the higher carrier frequency also meant it had reduced range compared to 2.4 GHz wireless connectivity. Thanks to cheaper equipment and better nominal ranges, 802.11b proved to be the most popular wireless standard by far. But, while it was more cost effective than 802.11a, 802.11b still wasn’t at a low enough price bracket for the average consumer. Routers and network adapters would still cost hundreds of dollars.

That all changed following a phone call from Steve Jobs. Apple was launching a new line of computers at that time and wanted to make wireless networking functionality part of it. The terms set were tough – Apple expected to have the cards at a $99 price point, but of course the volumes involved could potentially be huge. Lucent Technologies, which had acquired NCR by this stage, agreed.

While it was a difficult pill to swallow initially, the Apple deal finally put Wi-Fi in the hands of consumers and pushed it into the mainstream. PC makers saw Apple computers beating them to the punch and wanted wireless networking as well. Soon, key PC hardware makers including Dell, Toshiba, HP and IBM were all offering Wi-Fi.

Microsoft also got on the Wi-Fi bandwagon with Windows XP. Working with engineers from Lucent, Microsoft made Wi-Fi connectivity native to the operating system. Users could get wirelessly connected without having to install third party drivers or software. With the release of Windows XP, Wi-Fi was now natively supported on millions of computers worldwide – it had officially made it into the ‘big time’.

This blog post is the first in a series that charts the eventful history of Wi-Fi. The second part, which is coming soon, will bring things up to date and look at current Wi-Fi implementations.

 

September 18th, 2017

Modular Networks Drive Cost Efficiencies in Data Center Upgrades

By Yaron Zimmerman, Senior Staff Product Line Manager, Marvell

Exponential growth in data center usage has been responsible for driving a huge amount of investment in the networking infrastructure used to connect virtualized servers to the multiple services they now need to accommodate. To support the server-to-server traffic that virtualized data centers require, the networking spine will generally rely on high capacity 40 Gbit/s and 100 Gbit/s switch fabrics with aggregate throughputs now hitting 12.8 Tbit/s. But the ‘one size fits all’ approach being employed to develop these switch fabrics quickly leads to a costly misalignment for data center owners. They need to find ways to match the interfaces on individual storage units and server blades that have already been installed with the switches they are buying to support their scale-out plans.

The top-of-rack (ToR) switch provides one way to match the demands of the server equipment and the network infrastructure. The switch can aggregate the data from lower speed network interfaces and so act as a front-end to the core network fabric. But such switches tend to be far more complex than is actually needed – often derived from older generations of core switch fabric. They perform a level of switching that is unnecessary and, as a result, are not cost effective when they are primarily aggregating traffic on its way to the core network’s 12.8 Tbits/s switching engines. The heightened expense manifests itself not only in terms of hardware complexity and the issues of managing an extra network tier, but also in relation to power and air-conditioning. It is not unusual to find five or more fans inside each unit being used to cool the silicon switch. There is another way to support the requirements of data center operators which consumes far less power and money, while also offering greater modularity and flexibility too.

Providing a means by which to overcome the high power and cost associated with traditional ToR switch designs, the IEEE 802.1BR standard for port extenders makes it possible to implement a bridge between a core network interface and a number of port extenders that break out connections to individual edge devices. An attractive feature of this standard is the ability to allow port extenders to be cascaded, for even greater levels of modularity. As a result, many lower speed ports, of 1 Gbit/s and 10 Gbits/s, can be served by one core network port (supporting 40 Gbits/s or 100 Gbits/s operation) through a single controlling bridge device.

With a simpler, more modular approach, the passive intelligent port extender (PIPE) architecture that has been developed by Marvell leads to next generation rack units which no longer call for the inclusion of any fans for thermal management purposes. Reference designs have already been built that use a simple 65W open-frame power supply to feed all the devices required even in a high-capacity, 48-ports of 10 Gbits/s. Furthermore, the equipment dispenses with the need for external management. The management requirements can move to the core 12.8 Tbit/s switch fabric, providing further savings in terms of operational expenditure. It is a demonstration of exactly how a more modular approach can greatly improve the efficiency of today’s and tomorrow’s data center implementations.

August 31st, 2017

Securing Embedded Storage with Hardware Encryption

By Jeroen Dorgelo, Director of Strategy, Marvell Storage Group

For industrial, military and a multitude of modern business applications, data security is of course incredibly important. While software based encryption often works well for consumer and some enterprise environments, in the context of the embedded systems used in industrial and military applications, something that is of a simpler nature and is intrinsically more robust is usually going to be needed.

Self encrypting drives utilize on-board cryptographic processors to secure data at the drive level. This not only increases drive security automatically, but does so transparently to the user and host operating system. By automatically encrypting data in the background, they thus provide the simple to use, resilient data security that is required by embedded systems.

Embedded vs Enterprise Data Security

Both embedded and enterprise storage often require strong data security. Depending on the industry sectors involved this is often related to the securing of customer (or possibly patient) privacy, military data or business data. However that is where the similarities end. Embedded storage is often used in completely different ways from enterprise storage, thereby leading to distinctly different approaches to how data security is addressed.

Enterprise storage usually consists of racks of networked disk arrays in a data center, while embedded storage is often simply a solid state drive (SSD) installed into an embedded computer or device. The physical security of the data center can be controlled by the enterprise, and software access control to enterprise networks (or applications) is also usually implemented. Embedded devices, on the other hand – such as tablets, industrial computers, smartphones, or medical devices – are often used in the field, in what are comparatively unsecure environments. Data security in this context has no choice but to be implemented down at the device level.

Hardware Based Full Disk Encryption

For embedded applications where access control is far from guaranteed, it is all about securing the data as automatically and transparently as possible. Full disk, hardware based encryption has shown itself to be the best way of achieving this goal.

Full disk encryption (FDE) achieves high degrees of both security and transparency by encrypting everything on a drive automatically. Whereas file based encryption requires users to choose files or folders to encrypt, and also calls for them to provide passwords or keys to decrypt them, FDE works completely transparently. All data written to the drive is encrypted, yet, once authenticated, a user can access the drive as easily as an unencrypted one. This not only makes FDE much easier to use, but also means that it is a more reliable method of encryption, as all data is automatically secured. Files that the user forgets to encrypt or doesn’t have access to (such as hidden files, temporary files and swap space) are all nonetheless automatically secured.

While FDE can be achieved through software techniques, hardware based FDE performs better, and is inherently more secure. Hardware based FDE is implemented at the drive level, in the form of a self encrypting SSD. The SSD controller contains a hardware cryptographic engine, and also stores private keys on the drive itself.

Because software based FDE relies on the host processor to perform encryption, it is usually slower – whereas hardware based FDE has much lower overhead as it can take advantage of the drive’s integrated crypto-processor. Hardware based FDE is also able to encrypt the master boot record of the drive, which conversely software based encryption is unable to do.

Hardware centric FDEs are transparent to not only the user, but also the host operating system. They work transparently in the background and no special software is needed to run them. Besides helping to maximize ease of use, this also means sensitive encryption keys are kept separate from the host operating system and memory, as all private keys are stored on the drive itself.

Improving Data Security

Besides providing the transparent, easy to use encryption that is now being sought, hardware- based FDE also has specific benefits for data security in modern SSDs. NAND cells have a finite service life and modern SSDs use advanced wear leveling algorithms to extend this as much as possible. Instead of overwriting the NAND cells as data is updated, write operations are constantly moved around a drive, often resulting in multiple copies of a piece of data being spread across an SSD as a file is updated. This wear leveling technique is extremely effective, but it makes file based encryption and data erasure much more difficult to accomplish, as there are now multiple copies of data to encrypt or erase.

FDE solves both these encryption and erasure issues for SSDs. Since all data is encrypted, there are not any concerns about the presence of unencrypted data remnants. In addition, since the encryption method used (which is generally 256-bit AES) is extremely secure, erasing the drive is as simple to do as erasing the private keys.

Solving Embedded Data Security

Embedded devices often present considerable security challenges to IT departments, as these devices are often used in uncontrolled environments, possibly by unauthorized personnel. Whereas enterprise IT has the authority to implement enterprise wide data security policies and access control, it is usually much harder to implement these techniques for embedded devices situated in industrial environments or used out in the field.

The simple solution for data security in embedded applications of this kind is hardware based FDE. Self encrypting drives with hardware crypto-processors have minimal processing overhead and operate completely in the background, transparent to both users and host operating systems. Their ease of use also translates into improved security, as administrators do not need to rely on users to implement security policies, and private keys are never exposed to software or operating systems.

July 17th, 2017

Rightsizing Ethernet

By George Hervey, Principal Architect, Marvell

Implementation of cloud infrastructure is occurring at a phenomenal rate, outpacing Moore’s Law. Annual growth is believed to be 30x and as much 100x in some cases. In order to keep up, cloud data centers are having to scale out massively, with hundreds, or even thousands of servers becoming a common sight.

At this scale, networking becomes a serious challenge. More and more switches are required, thereby increasing capital costs, as well as management complexity. To tackle the rising expense issues, network disaggregation has become an increasingly popular approach. By separating the switch hardware from the software that runs on it, vendor lock-in is reduced or even eliminated. OEM hardware could be used with software developed in-house, or from third party vendors, so that cost savings can be realized.

Though network disaggregation has tackled the immediate problem of hefty capital expenditures, it must be recognized that operating expenditures are still high. The number of managed switches basically stays the same. To reduce operating costs, the issue of network complexity has to also be tackled.

Network Disaggregation
Almost every application we use today, whether at home or in the work environment, connects to the cloud in some way. Our email providers, mobile apps, company websites, virtualized desktops and servers, all run on servers in the cloud.

For these cloud service providers, this incredible growth has been both a blessing and a challenge. As demand increases, Moore’s law has struggled to keep up. Scaling data centers today involves scaling out – buying more compute and storage capacity, and subsequently investing in the networking to connect it all. The cost and complexity of managing everything can quickly add up.

Until recently, networking hardware and software had often been tied together. Buying a switch, router or firewall from one vendor would require you to run their software on it as well. Larger cloud service providers saw an opportunity. These players often had no shortage of skilled software engineers. At the massive scales they ran at, they found that buying commodity networking hardware and then running their own software on it would save them a great deal in terms of Capex.

This disaggregation of the software from the hardware may have been financially attractive, however it did nothing to address the complexity of the network infrastructure. There was still a great deal of room to optimize further.

802.1BR
Today’s cloud data centers rely on a layered architecture, often in a fat-tree or leaf-spine structural arrangement. Rows of racks, each with top-of-rack (ToR) switches, are then connected to upstream switches on the network spine. The ToR switches are, in fact, performing simple aggregation of network traffic. Using relatively complex, energy consuming switches for this task results in a significant capital expense, as well as management costs and no shortage of headaches.

Through the port extension approach, outlined within the IEEE 802.1BR standard, the aim has been to streamline this architecture. By replacing ToR switches with port extenders, port connectivity is extended directly from the rack to the upstream. Management is consolidated to the fewer number of switches which are located at the upper layer network spine, eliminating the dozens or possibly hundreds of switches at the rack level.

The reduction in switch management complexity of the port extender approach has been widely recognized, and various network switches on the market now comply with the 802.1BR standard. However, not all the benefits of this standard have actually been realized.

The Next Step in Network Disaggregation
Though many of the port extenders on the market today fulfill 802.1BR functionality, they do so using legacy components. Instead of being optimized for 802.1BR itself, they rely on traditional switches. This, as a consequence impacts upon the potential cost and power benefits that the new architecture offers.

Designed from the ground up for 802.1BR, Marvell’s Passive Intelligent Port Extender (PIPE) offering is specifically optimized for this architecture. PIPE is interoperable with 802.1BR compliant upstream bridge switches from all the industry’s leading OEMs. It enables fan-less, cost efficient port extenders to be deployed, which thereby provide upfront savings as well as ongoing operational savings for cloud data centers. Power consumption is lowered and switch management complexity is reduced by an order of magnitude

The first wave in network disaggregation was separating switch software from the hardware that it ran on. 802.1BR’s port extender architecture is bringing about the second wave, where ports are decoupled from the switches which manage them. The modular approach to networking discussed here will result in lower costs, reduced energy consumption and greatly simplified network management.

July 7th, 2017

Extending the Lifecycle of 3.2T Switch-Based Architecture

By Yaron Zimmerman, Senior Staff Product Line Manager, Marvell

and Yaniv Kopelman, Networking and Connectivity CTO, Marvell

The growth witnessed in the expanse of data centers has been completely unprecedented. This has been driven by the exponential increases in cloud computing and cloud storage demand that is now being witnessed. While Gigabit switches proved more than sufficient just a few years ago, today, even 3.2 Terabit (3.2T) switches, which currently serve as the fundamental building blocks upon which data center infrastructure is constructed, are being pushed to their full capacity.

While network demands have increased, Moore’s law (which effectively defines the semiconductor industry) has not been able to keep up. Instead of scaling at the silicon level, data centers have had to scale out. This has come at a cost though, with ever increasing capital, operational expenditure and greater latency all resulting. Facing this challenging environment, a different approach is going to have to be taken. In order to accommodate current expectations economically, while still also having the capacity for future growth, data centers (as we will see) need to move towards a modularized approach.

switching-blogpost

Scaling out the datacenter

Data centers are destined to have to contend with demands for substantially heightened network capacity – as a greater number of services, plus more data storage, start migrating to the cloud. This increase in network capacity, in turn, results in demand for more silicon to support it.

To meet increasing networking capacity, data centers are buying ever more powerful Top-of-Rack (ToR) leaf switches. In turn these are consuming more power – which impacts on the overall power budget and means that less power is available for the data center servers. Not only does this lead to power being unnecessarily wasted, in addition it will push the associated thermal management costs and the overall Opex upwards. As these data centers scale out to meet demand, they’re often having to add more complex hierarchical structures to their architecture as well – thereby increasing latencies for both north-south and east-west traffic in the process.

The price of silicon per gate is not going down either. We used to enjoy cost reductions as process sizes decreased from 90 nm, to 65 nm, to 40 nm. That is no longer strictly true however. As we see process sizes go down from 28 nm node sizes, yields are decreasing and prices are consequently going up. To address the problems of cloud-scale data centers, traditional methods will not be applicable. Instead, we need to take a modularized approach to networking.

PIPEs and Bridges

Today’s data centers often run on a multi-tiered leaf and spine hierarchy. Racks with ToR switches connect to the network spine switches. These, in turn, connect to core switches, which subsequently connect to the Internet. Both the spine and the top of the rack layer elements contain full, managed switches.

By following a modularized approach, it is possible to remove the ToR switches and replace them with simple IO devices – port extenders specifically. This effectively extends the IO ports of the spine switch all the way down to the ToR. What results is a passive ToR that is unmanaged. It simply passes the packets to the spine switch. Furthermore, by taking a whole layer out of the management hierarchy, the network becomes flatter and is thus considerably easier to manage.

The spine switch now acts as the controlling bridge. It is able to manage the layer which was previously taken care of by the ToR switch. This means that, through such an arrangement, it is possible to disaggregate the IO ports of the network that were previously located at the ToR switch, from the logic at the spine switch which manages them. This innovative modularized approach is being facilitated by the increasing number of Port Extenders and Control Bridges now being made available from Marvell that are compatible with the IEEE 802.1BR bridge port extension standard.

Solving Data Center Scaling Challenges

The modularized port-extender and control bridge approach allows data centers to address the full length and breadth of scaling challenges. Port extenders solve the latency by flattening the hierarchy. Instead of having conventional ‘leaf’ and ‘spine’ tiers, the port extender acts to simply extend the IO ports of the spine switch to the ToR. Each server in the rack has a near-direct connection to the managing switch. This improves latency for north-south bound traffic.

The port extender also functions to aggregate traffic from 10 Gbit Ethernet ports into higher throughput outputs, allowing for terabit switches which only have 25, 40, or 100 Gbit Ethernet ports, to communicate directly with 10 Gbit Ethernet edge devices. The passive port extender is a greatly simplified device compared to a managed switch. This means lower up-front costs as well as lower power consumption and a simpler network management scheme are all derived. Rather than dealing with both leaf and spine switches, network administration simply needs to focus on the managed switches at the spine layer.

With no end in sight to the ongoing progression of network capacity, cloud-scale data centers will always have ever-increasing scaling challenges to attend to. The modularized approach described here makes those challenges solvable.

June 7th, 2017

Community Platform Allows Easy Adoption of ARM 64-bit in Data Center, Networking and Storage Ecosystems

By Maen Suleiman, Senior Software Product Line Manager at Marvell

Marvell MACCHIATObin community board is first-of-its-kind, high-end ARM 64-bit networking and storage community board

The increasing availability of high-speed internet services is connecting people in novel and often surprising ways, and creating a raft of applications for data centers. Cloud computing, Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are all starting to play a major role within the industry.

These opportunities call for innovative solutions to handle the challenges they present, many of which have not been encountered before in IT. The industry is answering that call through technologies and concepts such as software defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV) and distributed storage. Making the most of these technologies and unleashing the potential of the new applications requires a collaborative approach. The distributed nature and complexity of the solutions calls for input from many different market participants.

A key way to foster such collaboration is through open-source ecosystems. The rise of Linux has demonstrated the effectiveness of such ecosystems and has helped steer the industry towards adopting open-source solutions. (Examples: AT&T Runs Open Source White Box Switch in its Live Network, SnapRoute and Dell EMC to Help Advance Linux Foundation’s OpenSwitch Project, Nokia launches AirFrame Data Center for the Open Platform NFV community)

Communities have come together through Linux to provide additional value for the ecosystem. One example is the Linux Foundation Organization which currently sponsors more than 50 open source projects. Its activities cover various parts of the industry from IoT ( IoTivity , EdgeX Foundry ) to full NFV solutions, such as the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV). This is something that would have been hard to conceive even a couple of years ago without the wide market acceptance of open-source communities and solutions.

Although there are numerous important open-source software projects for data-center applications, the hardware on which to run them and evaluate solutions has been in short supply. There are many ARM® development boards that have been developed and manufactured, but they primarily focus on simple applications.

All these open source software ecosystems require a development platform that can provide a high-performance central processing unit (CPU), high-speed network connectivity and large memory support. But they also need to be accessible and affordable to ARM developers. Marvell MACCHIATObin® is the first ARM 64-bit community platform for open-source software communities that provides solutions for, among others, SDN, NFV and Distributed Storage.

A high-performance ARM 64-bit community platform

A high-performance ARM 64-bit community platform

The Marvell MACCHIATObin community board is a mini-ITX form-factor ARM 64-bit network and storage oriented community platform. It is based on the Marvell hyperscale SBSA-compliant ARMADA® 8040 system on chip (SoC) that features four high-performance Cortex®-A72 ARM 64-bit CPUs. ARM Cortex-A72 CPU is the latest and most powerful ARM 64-bit CPU available and supports virtualization, an increasingly important aspect for data center applications.

Together with the quad-core platform, the ARMADA 8040 SoC provides two 10G Ethernet interfaces, three SATA 3.0 interfaces and support for up to 16GB of DDR4 memory to handle highly complex applications. This power does not come at the cost of affordability: the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board is priced at $349. As a result, the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board is the first affordable high-performance ARM 64-bit networking and storage community platform of its kind.

CPU

SolidRun (https://www.solid-run.com/) started shipping the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board in March 2017, providing an early access of the hardware to open-source communities.

 The Marvell MACCHIATObin community board is easy to deploy. It uses the compact mini-ITX form factor, enabling developers to purchase one of the many cases based on the popular standard mini-ITX case to meet their requirements. The ARMADA 8040 SoC itself is SBSA-compliant (http://infocenter.arm.com/help/topic/com.arm.doc.den0029/) to offer unified extensible firmware interface (UEFI) support.

The ARMADA 8040 SoC includes an advanced network packet processor that supports features such as parsing, classification, QoS mapping, shaping and metering. In addition, the SoC provides two security engines that can perform full IPSEC, DTL and other protocol-offload functions at 10G rates. To handle high-performance RAID 5/6 support, the ARMADA 8040 SoC employs high-speed DMA and XOR engines.

For hardware expansion, the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board provides one PCIex4 3.0 slot and a USB3.0 host connector. For non-volatile storage, options include a built-in eMMC device and a micro-SD card connector. Mass storage is available through three SATA 3.0 connectors. For debug, developers can access the board’s processors through a choice of a virtual UART running over the microUSB connector, 20-pin connector for JTAG access or two UART headers. The Marvell MACCHIATObin community board technical specifications can be found here: MACCHIATObin Specification.

Open source software enables advanced applications

The Marvell MACCHIATObin community board comes with rich open source software that includes ARM Trusted Firmware (ATF), U-Boot, UEFI, Linux Kernel, Yocto, OpenWrt, OpenDataPlane (ODP) , Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), netmap and others; many of the Marvell MACCHIATObin open source software core components are available at: https://github.com/orgs/MarvellEmbeddedProcessors/.

To provide the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board with ready-made support for the open-source platforms used at the edge and data centers for SDN, NFV and similar applications, standard operating systems like Suse Linux Enterprise, CentOS, Ubuntu and others should boot and run seamlessly on the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board.

As the ARMADA 8040 SoC is SBSA compliant and supports UEFI with ACPI, along with Marvell’s upstreaming of Linux kernel support, standard operating systems can be enabled on the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board without the need of special porting.

On top of this core software, a wide variety of ecosystem applications needed for the data center and edge applications can be assembled.

For example, using the ARMADA 8040 SoC high-speed networking and security engine will enable the kernel netdev community to develop and maintain features such as XDP or other kernel network features on ARM 64-bit platforms. The ARMADA 8040 SoC security engine will enable many other Linux kernel open-source communities to implement new offloads.

Thanks to the virtualization support available on the ARM Cortex A72 processors, virtualization technology projects such as KVM and XEN can be enabled on the platform; container technologies like LXC  and Docker can also be enabled to maximize data center flexibility and enable a virtual CPE ecosystem where the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board can be used to develop edge applications on a 64-bit ARM platform.

In addition to the mainline Linux kernel, Marvell is upstreaming U-Boot and UEFI, and is set to upstream and open the Marvell MACCHIATObin ODP and DPDK support. This makes the Marvell MACCHIATObin board an ideal community platform for both communities, and will open the door to related communities who have based their ecosystems on ODP or DPDK. These may be user-space network-stack communities such as OpenFastPath and FD.io or virtual switching technologies that can make use of both the ARMADA 8040 SoC virtualization support and networking capabilities such as Open vSwitch (OVS) or Vector Packet Processing (VPP).  Similar to ODP and DPDK, Marvell MACCHIATObin netmap support can enable VALE virtual switching technology or security ecosystem such as pfsense.

CPU2

 

Thanks to its hardware features and upstreamed software support, the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board is not limited to data center SDN and NFV applications. It is highly suited as a development platform for network and security products and applications such as network routers, security appliances, IoT gateways, industrial computing, home customer-provided equipment (CPE) platforms and wireless backhaul controllers; a new level of scalable and modular solutions can be further achieved when combining the Marvell MACCHIATObin community board with Marvell switches and PHY products.

Summary

The Marvell MACCHIATObin is the first of its kind: a high-performance, cost-effective networking community platform. The board supports a rich software ecosystem and has made available high-performance, high-speed networking ARM 64-bit community platforms at a price that is affordable for the majority of ARM developers, software vendors and other interested companies. It makes ARM 64-bit far more accessible than ever before for developers of solutions for use in data centers, networking and storage.