In last week’s blog, we discussed the term “SmartNIC” and its use when referencing FPGA-based adapters. SmartNIC is a great marketing term because it piggybacks off the overall “smart revolution” that encompasses phones, watches, houses etc.
However, the more descriptive (but admittedly boring) term for Accolade ANIC cards is “host CPU offload adapters”. In fact, we often refer interchangeably to ANIC cards as SmartNICs or host CPU offload adapters. The latter clearly does not role off the tongue but gets at the essence of what the adapter does.
The purpose of ANIC adapters is to remove or offload the burden of repetitive, packet processing functions from the appliance’s host CPU. In other words, free up the host CPU to deal with high value functions and not mundane tasks which are better left to an FPGA. Examples of these repetitive, packet processing functions are timestamping, flow shunting, deduplication, packet filtering, and flow classification.
SmartNIC and host CPU offload adapter are terms we use at Accolade Technology, but one of our main partners and the supplier of all our FPGAs, prefers the term “adaptable accelerator cards”. This is also arguably an awkward phrase but works for Xilinx because their Alveo platform is meant for many purposes (hence adaptable) and acceleration is in some sense another form of offload. In other words, with Xilinx Alveo adapters you can accelerate your host CPU processing because the FPGA offloads the burden.
Accolade Technology offers a complete line of host CPU offload adapters or SmartNICs from 1G all the way up to 2-ports of 100G. For a complete review of all ANIC adapter features please see this URL.