Tilera Uses Chips to Offload Jobs from x86 Server Processors

Tilera's new Tile-IQ offerings work with x86 chips to speed up networking, big data and packet-processing workloads in servers.

Tilera officials are looking to leverage their low-power processor technology to speed up networking and big data workloads in systems running x86 chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

The company is rolling out its Tile-IQ chip family of chips that can be housed in adapter cards that are then put into x86-based servers. The Tile-IQ chips, which offer as many as 72 cores, will work as a coprocessor to the Intel and AMD chips, speeding up the performance of networking and big data workloads, including Hadoop, by as much as four times while driving down the power consumption of servers that aren't using the Tilera technology, according to Bob Doud, Tilera's director of processor strategy.

The Tilera offering comes as trends like software-defined networking (SDN) and network-function virtualization (NFV) move many of the networking functions from switches and routers and onto the server, putting more pressure and workloads onto the x86 chips. The demands from traffic, virtual machines and network workloads are outpacing the development of the server chips, which hold up to 16 cores each.

The result is that these x86 server chips now have to deal with such jobs as processing lower level data packets, Doud told eWEEK.

"Can they do it?" he asked. "Sure, they can do it. But is it the optimal use of an Intel Xeon processor?"

By using the Tile-IQ solution, many of those networking, security, big data and deep packet workloads can be offloaded onto faster chips with more cores, while the x86 processors are freed up to work on server jobs.

The Tilera offering follows the trend in some computing circles, such as high-performance computing, of using accelerators and coprocessors to complement x86 server chips and increase the performance of a system without driving up power consumption. Nvidia and AMD for several years have been promoting their graphics technologies as accelerators, while Intel last year rolled out its x86-based Xeon Phi coprocessors.

Tilera's Doud acknowledged that organizations have used network accelerator cards from the likes of Mellanox, LSI, QLogic and Nvidia, but said that they have limitations in such areas as compute power, programming models and I/O. Tilera's Tile-IQ offers compute power on par with Intel's chips, standard programming in Linux, C and gcc, and greater scalability and I/O capabilities.

The Tile-IQ offering includes the Tilencore-Gx family of server adapters that use Tilera's Tile-Gx processors, which use from nine to 72 cores, all with integrated 10G bps to 80G bps of Ethernet I/O. In addition, Tilera's multicore development environment (MDE) includes a development toolkit and runtime software for applications in standard Linux/C-based programming environments. Tilera also offers pre-ported modular application suites that include an SDN network interface card (NIC) framework or Open vSwitch.

The RISC-based chips are all 64-bit enabled and offer Gigabit Ethernet controllers and DDR3 memory capabilities. They also plug into PCI-Express slots—PCIe 2.0 slots for the chips with nine, 16 and 36 cores, and PCI3 3.0 slots for the 72-core chips, Doud said.