Virtualization Featured Article

Mellanox Makes Network Efficiency its Mission

December 05, 2016

Several years back, Mellanox entered the Ethernet market. Not the first to market in the space, but Mellanox is leaving its mark with innovation, “grabbing significant market share by targeting the largest data centers in the world,” explained Vice President of Marketing for Mellanox Kevin Deierling at Editors Day Silicon Valley.

The reason for this initial success is simple, “The largest data centers in the world don’t adopt our technology because they like Mellanox or are trying to win some supercomputing contest. They make the choice because of efficiency.” Those utilizing Mellanox get more out of servers and storage infrastructure, in terms of performance and compute functions per dollar spent.

When Mellanox entered the market it did so with its InfiniBand technology and then brought many of these features to the Ethernet product family, and today nine of the top 10 cloud vendors are leveraging the technology.  The space has evolved a bit in the few short years Mellanox has been part of the fray, as today Deierling highlighted that Mellanox has nearly 90 percent market share of network adapters above 10G, noting that 25G is the new 10G.

At the end of the day, selecting 25G is more efficient and cost effective for firms. In purchasing 25G, a company receives more than twice the performance at a price point that is less than 20 percent premium relative 10G. Service providers play a key role today, and in the coming years to determine network norms.

Image via Pixabay

He continued to illustrate Mellanox is an end-to-end product company, which go from the servers through the cables, silicon photonics, Ethernet/InfiniBand switches and all the way to the storage. The large breadth of offerings allows a firm the luxury of working with one vendor to put the pieces together, and you know they will play nice.

An accelerated compute virtualization, network virtualization and efficient data movement are three primary differentiators for Mellanox, as Deierling clarified, “the CPU is meant to run applications, not move data.”

Moving forward, aside from Mellanox being neck deep in innovation, it plans to leverage its technical advantages to increase market share. For instance, Deierling referenced optical cables, which were once used mainly in telco deployments, are now utilized in hyperscale environments. And, Mellanox could not leave well enough alone, as its silicon photonics approach is something to behold. Using “really cheap” lasers that left on all the time, “passive wave guides on the silicon guide splut the light into four continuous wave beams,” then the photonic platform modulate the signal into ones and zeroes (much like Morse code was sent by ships blinking lights in the old days).

Another great application for high speed networks is content delivery networks that stream video. When If, “tens of thousands of end users want access to lots of giant 4 Gigabyte video files, it would be a disaster if these were all sent at once at high speed." Instead the innovative method that Netflix and others use is advanced features of Mellanox Ethernet adapters to make deliver data as a controlled "trickle" taher than a free-flowing faucet. 

Of course, in the enterprise it’s all about performance; couple this demand with enterprise also seeking to join today’s software defined movement, and typically it turns into a Mexican standof and an unwelcome tradeoff between performance and software flexibility. The result of the software-defined discovery journey is “a transition from purpose built hardware to SDN...for us it’s all about making that efficient. What we do is we basically deliver NFV and SDN flexibility without the performance penalty,” noted Deierling.

Speaking of innovation, it’s a key piece of the level of success Mellanox is experiencing. For example, major cloud providers like Microsoft are putting RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet) to work and are seeing very positive results in Azure. Deierling explained, “We invented RoCE, opened it, and it became multi-vendor standard…if we hadn’t done it our customer would have made us.” I’d say that says something.

With the level of strain placed on today’s network, it is mission critical to ensure that all resources are leveraged in an effective and efficient way, which is why Mellanox makes total infrastructure efficiency its business.  

Edited by Alicia Young

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