How SmartNICs, FPGA, and now DPUs are accelerating workloads for 5G

rugged edge survival guide Premio


Key Podcast Takeaways 

  • The rapid growth of data generated by 5G and PCIe Gen 4 has led to edge computing becoming necessary to process the amount of data. 
  • Specific add-on cards, known as SmartNIC FPGAs, help to alleviate the workload by focusing on processing network tasks so that the CPU has better utilization for its cores  
  • SmartNIC FPGAs are highly specialized and programmable to be better at processing their specific workloads than traditional CPUs and GPUs. 
  • Premio offers a purpose-built edge computing servers that can utilize up to 18 such devices in a single 2U form factors, perfect for space-constraining deployments at the edge.  

What are SmartNIC FPGAs, DPUs and Why are They Important? 

 Smart devices are a common sight nowadays, but with each device generating its own unique sets of data, it is obvious that even top of the line datacenters will have a hard time going through oceans of data. With the prevalence of PCIe Gen4 and 5G network, data can be processed and transmit much faster than the older standards of PCIe Gen3 and 4G. Edge networks have become the hot topic for debate due to its benefits  addressed by cloud companies like AWS and Microsoft Azure shifting their offerings closer to the edge. Edge setups can process and refine relevant data to send on to the main datacenters; this is enabled by the utilization of DPU-based SmartNIC FPGAs. 

 SmartNIC FPGAs are add-on network cards that have high-performance processors that are paired with network interfaces to perform the multitude of network functions that are required in HPC operations. Not only are SmartNIC FPGAs reprogrammable, but they are also cheaper and more efficient than traditional CPUs and GPUs for handling network tasks, a benefit for edge infrastructures. Their hyper-specialization is what allows them to be better at their designated tasks but will fail at tasks they are not programmed to do. This allows SmartNIC FPGAs to offload functions from the main CPU and free up resources to process other tasks, all while the SmartNIC FPGA is plugging away at all the network tasks. 

Current Leaders in SmartNIC Technology 

NVIDIA Mellanox is one of the biggest players in this field of technology, with their popular Bluefield cards. Bluefield is one of the few cards that can support up to 200Gb speeds with dual QSFP56 interface ports. Intel is another strong player in this field, with unique architecture for their solution. Most cards usually only have one chip on their card, Intel’s N3000 has 5 chips, which was designed specifically for 5G. The N3000 is a lot more versatile due to this feature but comes at a hefty price and can be difficult to program its functionality. This could be alleviated in the future as Intel releases tools to help with this process. There aren’t as many key players in this industry due to the high costs of developing newer technologies, but smaller companies like Fungible have been coming out with their own solutions as well. Alongside Nvidia, Fungible has also been pushing the term DPU as a common term for SmartNIC cards. Their personal solution for SmartNIC card, the Fungible DPU and the F1 DPU, make use of a P4-like accelerator to improve functionality.  

Premio’s Position in the Edge-Computing Industry 

Premio understands the growing needs of edge computing and the 5G industry, which is why it has come up with a 2U12 DPU server that is capable of housing and utilizing multiple SmartNIC FPGA cards. Most systems allow the addition of accelerators by simply slotting it onto the PCIe slot on the motherboard. Premio, on the other hand, can slot in accelerators from the front using a PCIe switch. This solution enables users to save on data movement, since the packets will go from the device to the storage through the switch and eliminating the need to utilize the host CPU. This also allows for more than the usual one or two SmartNIC FPGA cards in a single serverallowing edge infrastructure architects the ability to save physical space and focus more on the efficiencies of their unit. 

Premio 2U 12 Bay DPU Server supports supports 12x front accessible hot-swap SmartNIC, FPGA, and DPU PCIe3 x8 Accelerators  


In addition to high performance servers, Premio also engineers unique solutions for our customers’ highly specialized needs. Our 30+ years in designing, engineering, and manufacturing industrial computing solutions allows us to address and create solutions for ever-evolvinIoT technologies, especially as 5G network drive new opportunity for many enterprise industries.