What Makes a NIC a SmartNIC, and Why is it Needed?

By Nick Tausanovitch | Sep 13, 2016

There has been a lot of buzz recently in the industry regarding the use of SmartNICs (also known as intelligent server adapters (ISAs)) in cloud data center servers to boost performance by offloading CPUs in servers by performing network datapath processing. Of course, performing network offloads on the NIC is not new, with many traditional NICs supporting offload of functions like checksum and segmentation. However, with the recent tectonic shift in cloud data center networking driven by software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), a new class of offload NIC is needed - namely the SmartNIC.