The Latest Intel SmartNICs are Changing the Face of Network Connectivity - Here's How

Nov 12, 2021

Network connectivity

Today's modern infrastructure enables us to reach almost every corner of the world with ever-improving network connectivity. However, for telecom providers, the challenge remains to generate additional revenue streams with newer services.

One such opportunity is "last mile" connectivity—the link between a customer's location and the telecom's local central office (CO). With the help of the latest Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) and SmartNIC technology from Intel, this challenge is about to be addressed.

The Bandwidth and Speed Challenge

For decades, telecoms have been limited by the traditional wireline bandwidth they could deliver to a customer's building. So, despite the speed of a provider's overall network, customers could only experience the bandwidth allowed by their building's physical connection.

At the same time, individuals have enjoyed, over the years, ever-improving mobile data and network connectivity. What's more, with today's growing 5G network, mobile connections are finally starting to rival broadband speed. But, until now, broadband and 5G have never been leveraged together into one service.

The Solution - Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) Leveraging Intel Technology

Thanks to Intel's latest family of FPGA-enhanced NICs, and the expertise of its OEM partners, a viable solution is here. It combines the customer's broadband and 5G connections into an intelligent, high-performing solution for CO connectivity.

These cutting-edge network interface cards enable FMC with technologies such as access gateway functions (AGF), software-defined networking (SDN), network function visualization (NFV), and user plane function (UPF).

With servers running Intel SmartNICs, customers can leverage a variety of new technologies, including virtual broadband network gateway (vBNG), segment routing over IPv6, carrier-grade network address translation, virtual firewall, IP security (IPsec), transport layer security (TLS), and packet monitoring and analytics.

Example of Telecom Configurations

A typical medium-density CO might, for example, run a server outfitted with one of Intel's FPGA-based SmartNICs. Conversely, a high-density solution may include a server with an onboard SmartNIC and a white box switch running an Intel Tofino application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). The latter solution would provide terabit P4 level programmable UPF, AGF, and BNG.

The Benefits of Intel FPGAs

By powering their latest generation of SmartNICs, Intel FPGAs offer the following benefits:

OEM Support

To make deployment as simple as possible. Intel has partnered with OEMs like UNICOM Engineering that provide design, deployment, and support.


Intel's FPGAs fit seamlessly into their extensive ecosystem of products. Therefore, hardware and software solutions designers can ensure that each hardware component leverages the other to its fullest extent.

Intel OFS

Intel's Open FPGA Stack, aka Intel OFS, provides software and hardware infrastructure via git repositories. With it, telecom providers can customize their NICs to meet the needs of various deployments and provide the scalability that comes with standardization.

Intel's SmartNIC Family - In-Depth

Intel offers a variety of connectivity-enhancing cards to service the needs of telecom, cloud, and core data center deployments:

Intel FPGA PAC N3000t

In support of high-bandwidth, low-latency, 5G solutions, this SmartNIC can accelerate traffic up to 100 Gbps. Overall, these capabilities enable better-virtualized radio access network applications or vRANs.


Known previously as the Intel PAC with Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGA, this SmartNIC offers up to 100 GBPS of inline high-speed interfaces. It's designed to support workloads in the data center like financial calculations, streaming analytics, artificial intelligence, and genomics.


This programmable acceleration card offers both lookaside and inline acceleration. Its versatility and performance allow it to support solutions across multiple market verticals, including artificial intelligence, big data, video transcoding, genomics, financial transactions, and cybersecurity.

Silicom FPGA SmartNIC N5010 Adapter

This hardware programmable 4x100GE FPGA-accelerated SmartNIC can enable the latest Intel architecture servers to run the latest firewalls. As a result, telecom companies can run IPSec and segment routing version 6 (SRv6).


This IPU is designed to enable cloud service providers to offload storage and vSwitch infrastructure using a Storage Performance Development Kit (SPDK) and a Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK). It features an Intel Xeon D processor + FPGA and provides a hardware programmable data path with 50G connectivity.

Ready to Accelerate Your Solution with Intel Technology and UNICOM Engineering?

As an Intel Technology Provider, UNICOM Engineering has helped drive the latest solutions with our partners for decades. Our skilled team actively builds the latest solutions based on 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Platinum/Gold/Silver series processors, Intel Optane persistent memory 200 series, Intel SmartNIC and Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters, and Intel Optane SSDs. Our customers benefit from solutions optimized for telecom, cloud, enterprise, network, security, IoT, and HPC workloads with expanded I/O, storage, and network connectivity options by leveraging our services. Learn more about how UNICOM Engineering can help you transition to next-gen solutions by scheduling a consultation.

Category: Technology