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Bringing Software Innovation Velocity to Networking Hardware: Netronome


The use of offload silicon to allow more optimized designs and the use of application specific processors alongside the traditional x86 type general purpose processors is a key growth area in data center server architectures. As a leading provider of such solutions, Netronome significantly improves the performance and efficiency of modern System on Chip (SoC) designs. Netronome unites the speed and flexibility of software innovation with the performance and scalability of hardware, bringing the efficiencies of mega-scale data centers to the mainstream server and edge computing markets.

Netronome was founded in 2003 by Niel Viljoen, David Wells and Johann Tönsing with the idea to develop programmable flow co-processing solutions that accelerate network and security processing in x86-based servers. Netronome’s production-quality hardware and software platforms are available directly to cloud data center service providers, as well as to large enterprises adopting heterogeneous server architectures for SDN and private/hybrid clouds. Netronome products are also available through partners such as OEMs, ODMs, system integrators and VAR channels.

Achieving Excellence in what it does

Netronome has developed a domain-specific architecture (DSA) that allows customers to build accelerators for networking and storage applications in data center and edge computing markets. This delivers efficient and high-performance heterogeneous solutions when paired with multi-core processors. Netronome’s technology can be purchased as hardened IP blocks to build custom SoC silicon devices, as SoC devices, SmartNICs or Smart Edge platforms and related software. 

At the core of Netronome’s product portfolio is the flexible Network Flow Processor (NFP), based on a highly modular, scalable multi-core DSA architecture that contains an extremely high-bandwidth fabric that enables a unique and composable “LEGO block” structure. This allows for the rapid evolution of new devices by Netronome or by its partners. 

Using these devices, Netronome designed a broad range of 10Gb/s to 100Gb/s SmartNIC and Smart Edge solutions that improve the performance, cost, and power consumption of COTS servers by offloading processing-intensive functions such as virtual switching, security, load balancing, and telemetry.

Experts in Addressing Customers’ Needs 

Off-the-Shelf SmartNICs: Netronome SmartNICs are available in standard low-profile or OCP form factors, or custom form factors as may be needed to fit form, size and power profiles in optimized Smart Edge devices. Netronome delivers off-the-shelf firmware loads that install on the SmartNICs to serve a wide array of modern networking and security applications. They work in conjunction with standard, upstream and open source server networking software.

Programmable SmartNICs: Netronome enables a flexible and highly performing programming environment for users to develop their own preferred data plane. In a “sea of workers” programming model with each worker executing in an RTC model, developers can create code in C, or C through the Linux kernel in eBPF, P4 or in assembly. Developers do not have to have underlying parallelism to use C code in eBPF/XDP or P4 environments. The domain specificity of these languages allows simpler programs to be written while enabling high performance.

Composable Silicon IP Blocks: Finally, the “LEGO structure” of the NFP is derived by combining individually developed Logic Blocks, each delivering functions such as I/O interface, network processing, bulk crypto processing, and memory controllers. These Logic Blocks are licensable as silicon IP, hence a customer can build their own custom silicon, including creating their own Logic Blocks and combining them with existing blocks.

Solutions Offered By the Company

Agilio Server Networking Solutions: It is comprised of hardware and software for efficient, high-performance server-based networking deployments. The solution significantly improves the throughput of SDN and NFV applications while lowering compute infrastructure TCO and preserving the fast pace of innovation available with current software-only implementation.

Cloud NFV Infrastructure: Netronome provides NFV infrastructure solutions with breakthrough server performance and efficiency enabling Telco cloud service providers to deliver innovative and rapid new services related to 4G/5G mobile video, data, IoT and autonomous car applications.

Data Center IaaS Applications: Networking for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) requires advanced networking and security services delivered close to the VMs using server-based networking components like Open vSwitch, Contrail vRouter, and Connection Tracking.

OpenStack Cloud Networking: OpenStack cloud orchestration promises scalable, cost-effective private/hybrid clouds. However, OpenStack networking using Open vSwitch or Contrail vRouter Software imposes a significant CPU consumption and VM performance tax.

Network Security: Traditional security measures are proving ineffective and difficult to manage. The new infrastructure needs to be secured with stringent policies, maintain cadence with the ever-evolving threat landscape, and protect sensitive data; all at high performance. Such security solutions may be implemented and deployed as dedicated or virtualized network appliances or can be effectively implemented on SmartNICs in COTS servers.

Data Center Software-Defined Networking (SDN) Gateway: SDN-based data center gateways can be used to effectively link compute islands, potentially using many different networking technologies internally. SDN gateways require significant scale in terms of the number of flows and stateful security rules while maintaining high-throughput performance. Agilio software and hardware used in COTS servers can be used to build such gateway solutions.

Meet the Dynamic Leader

Niel Viljoen, Founder, and Chief Executive Officer of Netronome: Niel is the CEO of Netronome and as a technology and business visionary, he has led the company in the development of x86 networking co-processing solutions resulting in significant revenue growth. Prior to founding Netronome, Niel served as group CTO for Marconi plc after serving as GM and SVP of the FORE Systems Service Provider Bu, where he drove a highly successful ATM adapter and switch portfolio of products. He attended the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and Cambridge University in the UK.

“At the heart of our success is our deep market knowledge and core competency in the areas of networking, security, and heterogeneous processing in servers.”