Disaggregated FPGAs: network performance comparison against bare-metal servers, virtual machines and linux containers
FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) are making their way into data centers (DC). They are used as accelerators to boost the compute power of individual server nodes and to improve the overall power efficiency. Meanwhile, DC infrastructures are being redesigned to pack ever more compute capacity into the same volume and power envelops. This redesign leads to the disaggregation of the server and its resources into a collection of standalone computing, memory, and storage modules. To embrace this evolution, we propose an architecture that decouples the FPGA from the CPU of the server by connecting the FPGA directly to the DC network. This proposal turns the FPGA into a network-attached computing resource that can be incorporated with disaggregated servers into these emerging data centers. We implemented a prototype and compared its network performance with that obtained from bare metal servers (Native), virtual machines (VM), and containers (CT). The results show that standalone network-attached FPGAs outperform them in terms of network latency and throughput by a factor of up to 35x and 73x, respectively. We also observed that the proposed architecture consumes only 14% of the total FPGA resources.