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Marvell’s newest Arm processor integrates 5G hardware accelerators

News Analysis
Mar 15, 20222 mins

Marvell announced a new Arm-based smartNIC, and Dell will be the first to use it.

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Credit: Gonin / Getty Images

In the battle between Intel and AMD, it can be easy to overlook Marvell Technology, but you shouldn’t. Through acquisition and organic growth, the company has turned into quite a powerhouse playing in multiple areas.

Marvell is the first major vendor to support the Arm on 5G initiative that Arm unveiled last October, when it launched the Arm 5G Solutions Lab. The lab is designed to let hardware and software partners work on 5G-based products running on Arm architecture.

Now Marvell is preparing to show off its 5G Open RAN platform at the Mobile World Congress 2022 in Barcelona. Marvell’s Octeon Fusion processor integrates 5G in-line acceleration with Arm Neoverse CPUs and is the foundation for Marvell’s Open RAN DU reference design.

The Octeon processor is referred to as a data processing unit (DPU) and is used in smartNIC cards designed to offload network traffic processing from the CPU. The Octeon Fusion scales from mid-capacity small cells to high-capacity macro cells supporting traditional integrated and open, cloud RAN implementations.

Marvell acquired the Cavium processor line in 2019. Prior to the Cavium purchase, the Octeon was MIPS-based. After buying Cavium, it switched to Arm’s Neoverse design, which is for enterprise servers.

In addition, Marvell already has a customer for Octeon Fusion. Ahead of MWC, it announced a deal with Dell Technologies to introduce new hardware that combines a Dell PowerEdge server with an inline Octeon Fusion 5G Layer 1 processing card for vRAN and Open RAN solutions. Although it is dubbed the Dell Open RAN Accelerator Card, Dell notes that the card will work with other x86-based servers, not just its own.

Dell is also adding new Dell Bare Metal Orchestrator Modules to its software, giving cloud service providers the ability to deploy and manage the entire cloud foundation stack.

The Dell/Marvell partnership comes just a week after HP Enterprise announced a similar partnership with Qualcomm. HPE plans to offers Qualcomm’s inline accelerator card, the X100 5G RAN, with its ProLiant DL110 Gen10 Plus Telco Server.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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