Boosting Up Intel® QuickAssist Technology 8955 Power with Dual Chip Accelerator Adapter

avatar March 12, 2015

Boosting Up Intel® QuickAssist Technology 8955 Power with Dual Chip Accelerator Adapter

The use of hardware accelerator look aside engine often is a good idea for both lower CPU load and freeing up CPU cycles for other business logic processing, and for higher overall performance. It is, however, a path that needs to be taken with some understanding of the server architecture in place, and mainly of the hardware aspects of the data path, in order to gain the best benefit of the acceleration.

For network traffic processing with SSL acceleration, where the most common use case is web service termination, then the hardware data paths capabilities are to be accounted for, to calculate correctly the expected results, and to plan a scale up of acceleration, when it is possible and required.

The hardware data path can be depicted as a pipeline, or a cascaded funnel, where on each stage in the pipe, on each funnel, has its own capacity of data transfer. Therefore, the path of data transfer from CPU main memory to an acceleration engine (and back, vice versa), is roughly as follows:

1) First funnel – CPU core capacity, of handling and processing this much TCP connections per second, or that much data bandwidth transfer;
2) Second funnel – PCIe interface, which is the current common interface to look aside engines;
3) Third funnel – Acceleration chipset
capacity for various types of processing.

The total benefit of the offload and acceleration is a subtotal of those three basic elements.

Two aspects of SSL traffic termination are to be considered when hardware acceleration is evaluated. First, is the number of SSL handshakes per second, where with RSA asymmetric cryptography, the hardware accelerator is used for exponent calculation. Second, is the total bandwidth of data that is transferred to and from acceleration engine, which is the case with symmetric bulk cryptography.

SSL Offload, Acceleration, dual chip, PCIe

Silicom portfolio of SSL acceleration adapters include, among others, two types of dual chipset Intel® 8955 based PCIe adapters:

Adapter PE3iS2CO3X8 PE3iS2CO3
PCIe Gen 3 x8 Gen 3 x16
RSA 2K / sec 80,000 80,000
AES128 54Gbps 100Gbps

From the above data exemplifies how a hardware accelerator look aside engine should be matched to a specific case and a specific housing.

Let’s take the first PCIe x8 based adapter (marked E3iS2CO3X8), for instance. Such an adapter would fit perfectly for a purpose of accelerating RSA 2K calculations. Its capacity to uphold up to cool 80 thousand RSA exponents calculations per second, and by that, to support this rate of SSL handshakes, is not hampered by interface bandwidth. Even in this maximal rate, the total bandwidth of data that traverses the PCIe bus to and from the adapters is less than 2Gbps, well within the capacity of x8 lanes of PCIe v3. On the other hand, same bus dictates a hard limit of bandwidth, and thus a hard limit of AES128 symmetric encryption bandwidth.

This limit is immediately overcome with the x16 based adapter (PE3iS2CO3) where PCIe is no longer a bottle neck. It has to be remembered, however, that common commercial off the shelf server often include single PCIe v3 x16 slot and several (six, eight, even more) PCIe v3 x8 slots, a fact that pose physical consideration that is added to the equation.