Netronome SmartNIC Enablement

Netronome SmartNICs allow complex packet processing on the NIC. In order to support hardware acceleration for them, Nova core needs modifications to support the combination of VIF and OVS plugging they support. This spec proposes a hybrid SR-IOV and OVS model to enable acceleration.

Problem description

Netronome SmartNICs are able to route packets directly to individual SR-IOV Virtual Functions. These can be connected to VMs using IOMMU (vfio-pci passthrough) or a low-latency vhost-user virtio-forwarder running on the compute node. The packet processing pipeline is managed by running a custom version of OVS, which has support for enabling hardware acceleration of the datapath match/action rules.

Currently, Nova supports multiple types of OVS plugging: TAP-like plugs, hybrid (veth pair + linux-bridge) plugs or vhost-user socket plugs. The type is decided by the bridge type: DPDK-based bridges use vhost-user, and “normal” bridges use vhost-net/TAP or hybrid, based on the firewall plugin used.

In order to enable acceleration on Netronome SmartNICs, Nova needs two additional methods to plug a VM into an OVS bridge, while consuming a PCIe Virtual Function resource. Additionally, it would be beneficial if the plugging method could be determined on a per-port basis.

Use Cases

  • An end user should be able to attach a port to a VM running on a hypervisor equipped with a Netronome SmartNIC with OVS in one of three modes:

    • Normal: Standard kernel-based OVS plugging. (hybrid or TAP)

    • Passthrough: Accelerated IOMMU passthrough, ideal for NFV-like applications. (vfio-pci)

    • Virtio Forwarder: Accelerated vhost-user passthrough, maximum software compatibility with standard virtio drivers and with support for live migration. (XVIO)

Proposed change

  • Add extra SR-IOV VNIC type:

    • Nova’s network model has the following VNIC types as options for a port:

      • normal

      • direct

      • macvtap

      • direct-physical

      • baremetal

    • It is proposed that this list be extended with:

      • virtio-forwarder

  • Add logic to implement PCI reservation in the neutron API section:

    • In nova/network/neutronv2/ a secondary check needs to be added to create_pci_requests_for_sriov_ports in order to allocate PCI requests for OVS networks when the VNIC type is set to direct or virtio-forwarder. It is undesirable to send the VF type selection parameters to Nova as PCI vendor/product ID, further work should be done to develop a capability or driver list that would abstract this detail away from users. Refer to IRC chat log for more details:

  • Because Agilio OVS is a forked version of upstream OVS, an external OS-VIF plugin is required, based on the OVS OS-VIF plugin.

    • New port profiles should be added for the two plugging types:

      • VIFPortProfilePassthrough: for Passthrough plugging

      • VIFPortProfileForwarder: for Virtio Forwarder plugging

    • Add logic in nova/network/ to pick between them based on VNIC type.

  • Additional notes:

    • From the point of view of most portions of Neutron, this solution looks like unmodified OVS:

      • Flow rules are programmed like normal.

      • Ports are annotated on the bridge with the same metadata as the standard OVS solutions.

      • Standard Neutron plugins or ML2 drivers can be used.

    • The OS-VIF plugin needs to run commands on the hypervisor to configure the Virtual Function and handles. This is likely to be vendor specific, this could call out to a user-replaceable script or be implemented in the OS-VIF custom plugin.

    • A deployer/administrator still has to register the PCI devices on the hypervisor with pci_passthrough_whitelist and pci_alias in nova.conf.

    • SmartNIC enabled nodes and classic nodes can run side-by-side. Standard scheduling filters allocate and place VMs according to port types and driver capabilities.

    • A proof-of-concept implementation has been submitted: this is tracked on the blueprint. For convenience, the constants and new additions have been named with the keyword “Agilio”. This will be replaced with vendor-neutral SmartNIC terms.

    • An RFE needs to be logged on Neutron API to be amended to recognise virtio-forwarder as a valid option for binding:vnic_type.


  • Add a new OVS bridge type:

    • This would force all VMs plugged into that bridge to use one acceleration type. The impact on code would be much wider.

  • Add glance or flavor annotations:

    • This would force a VM to have one type of acceleration. Code would possibly move out to more VIF types and Virtual Function reservation would still need to be updated.

Data model impact


REST API impact


Security impact

The OS-VIF plugin needs elevated privileges, similar to other OS-VIF plugins.

Notifications impact


Other end user impact

python-neutronclient should accept the virtio-forwarder VNIC type, in addition to the current list of VNIC types.

Performance Impact

This code is likely to be called at VIF plugging and unplugging. Performance is not expected to regress.

On accelerated ports, dataplane performance between VMs is expected to increase.

Other deployer impact

A deployer would still need to configure the SmartNIC version of OVS and configure the PCI whitelist in Nova at deployment. This would not require core OpenStack changes.

Developer impact

Core Nova semantics have been slightly changed. ovs networks would now support more VNIC types.



Primary assignee:

Jan Gutter <>

Other contributors:

Imran Khakoo <> Monique van den Berg <>

Work Items

  • Rework proof-of-concept implementation to be more vendor neutral, including support for the OVS-TC topic:

  • Generate external OS-VIF plugin, replicating required functionality from the OVS plugin.

  • Develop acceptable method of VF selection based on capabilities or driver types.

  • Update unit tests.

  • Generate user-facing documentation.


  • Netronome SmartNIC drivers are available.


Unit testing will be added for the new semantics, functional testing will be conducted at Netronome using a third-party CI system.

Documentation Impact

A user-facing guide to configuring SmartNIC acceleration similar to the one available for SR-IOV Passthrough would be generated:


Agilio OVS:

Agilio OVS Firewall:




Release Name