Alibaba Innovative Research (AIR) > Research on Frontier Technologies in Data Center and Server
【CCF-AIR青年基金】Research on Programmability of Host Network (virtual switch) Acceleration Scheme of Next-Generation Self-developed Network Chip

Research Themes

Research on Frontier Technologies in Data Center and Server


Alibaba Cloud data center self-developed smart NICs have gone through many iterations and are leading the industry in performance, cost, power consumption, flexibility and other indicators, providing strong support for business development. In order to further consolidate the technical competitiveness of Alibaba Cloud on the host side of the data center, the self-developed smart NIC technology will continue to evolve towards higher performance, lower cost, and lower power consumption.

The host network is an important component of the self-developed network card, and its performance, delay and other indicators are the key indicators for building technical competitiveness. At the same time, the virtual switch service, as an overlay service on the data center side, has the characteristics of changing requirements and frequent iterations, which puts forward higher requirements for the flexibility of self-developed network cards. The virtual switch adopts a speed-separated acceleration architecture, placing the fast path in the hardware and the slow path in the CPU, achieving a balance between high performance and flexibility. For higher performance, lower power consumption, and lower cost, mainstream network cards in the industry are evolving toward ASICs. ASICs have a long R&D cycle, slow iterations, and high NRE costs. On this basis, how to support business flexibility is a major challenge we need to face.

At present, many flexible solutions have emerged in the field of smart NIC/DPU, such as multi-core ARM, NP, P4, GP, etc. The above solutions have their own characteristics and are applied in different scenarios. After many iterations, Alibaba Cloud's self-developed network card has accumulated a lot in terms of software and hardware integrated architecture, high performance, low latency, and flexibility, and has laid a solid foundation for subsequent technological evolution. Faced with the demand for next-generation self-developed network cards, especially how ASIC can support the rapid evolution of services, we need to answer a few questions.

First, What are the current host network requirements. What is the development situation in the next 3-5 years. Second, How to define the host network's need for flexibility. Third, What kind of flexibility can meet the business development in the next 3-5 years. Fourth, Will the existing acceleration architecture continue to be applicable. How to optimize.



We hope to solve the following technical problems:

1.Precipitate a set of programmable capability evaluation models, which can quantitatively evaluate programmable capabilities from multiple dimensions, such as instruction set, operation cycle, performance, ease of use, and supported table item specifications;

2.Propose a new host network acceleration scheme, which can achieve a relatively balanced effect in terms of flexibility, performance, delay and other indicators under the background of ASIC;


Technical output: next-generation virtual switch software and hardware integrated acceleration solution and software/hardware source code (C, Verilog);

Paper & patents: Co-published 1 CCF-A communication conference paper and 1 patent.


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