FreeBSD Contributor Case Study

 

Industry

Networking and intelligent interconnect technology for servers, storage, and hyper-converged infrastructure

Location

Headquarters in Sunnyvale, California and Yokneam, Israel

Employees

~2,800 worldwide

Overview

Mellanox Technologies (NASDAQ: MLNX) is a leading supplier of end-to-end Ethernet and InfiniBand intelligent interconnect solutions and services for servers, storage, and hyper-converged infrastructure. Mellanox intelligent interconnect solutions increase data center efficiency by providing the highest throughput and lowest latency, delivering data faster to applications and unlocking system performance. www.mellanox.com

Mellanox Technologies power:

5 of Top 6 Global Banks  |  9 of Top 10 Hyperscale Companies  |  9 of the Top 10 Oil and Gas Companies

Mellanox employs three FreeBSD Source committers who maintain the InfiniBand, RDMA, LinuxKPI, and USB subsystems, and collaborate broadly to help advance FreeBSD.

For Mellanox, First Step With FreeBSD Came At Request of Large Storage Customer

Mellanox delivered its first FreeBSD Driver in 2011 after a large Storage OEM customer with a mixed FreeBSD/Linux™ environment approached Mellanox with a request. The OEM was already enjoying the High-Speed performance that Mellanox NICs (Network Interface Cards) delivered for their Linux workloads, and wanted the same performance from their FreeBSD systems.

Mellanox’s vision of developing software in collaboration with the community found a home in the active FreeBSD community, with whom Mellanox soon joined hands to deliver innovative connectivity to data-centers.

Mellanox Pushes Advanced Interconnect Tech Upstream

Developing FreeBSD drivers made Mellanox Senior Software Manager Meny Yossefi realize just how many large data centers rely on the stability, security, and performance of FreeBSD. Inspired to work more with this community, Mellanox decided to not only maintain the drivers, but to also fund the work of another Mellanox engineer to support the USB subsystem. Mellanox engineers have also contributed smaller but equally important improvements in other kernel subsystems, such as PCI.

Over the years, Meny and his team have integrated many of Mellanox’s leading-edge RDMA and other advanced offload technologies into FreeBSD, and they continue to do so. Today, Mellanox is the maintainer and top contributor to the IB/RDMA stack in FreeBSD, work that accelerates storage, AI, and other demanding and latency-sensitive applications with zero CPU utilization.

In the words of Konstantin Belousov, a Mellanox SW Staff Engineer and FreeBSD Foundation technical staff member, “Mellanox is a leading interconnect vendor, maintaining and developing a wide range of advanced networking technology solutions. Mellanox recognizes the value of FreeBSD and is constantly looking to expand its offering for FreeBSD users while also promoting the project outside the scope of the network drivers.”

For Mellanox, Benefits Of FreeBSD Come From Contributing

Beyond the customer satisfaction and loyalty their support of FreeBSD earned Mellanox with the initial storage customer, their involvement with the project has borne additional fruit in the form of new customer relationships. 

Thanks to the collaborative nature of the FreeBSD community, Mellanox customers are more than “customers” — they are design partners.

“Through our involvement with FreeBSD, we began collaborating with some very sophisticated FreeBSD-only shops, several of which brought new product feature ideas to us that we have co-developed – something that is great for our entire engineering team. These are the kinds of customers you really want to work with – the kind that can help improve your products,” said Meny.

The Mellanox team also appreciate the technical capabilities of FreeBSD, which allows them to present many leading-edge technology features for both Ethernet and RDMA connectivity, as well as, cyber-security accelerations and offloads.

Going forward, Mellanox has its sights set on expanding even more into data center connectivity and networking, and FreeBSD will factor prominently in this growth.

Tight-Knit and Technical Community Means You Can Make a Difference

For the Mellanox team, the tight-knit nature of the FreeBSD developer community has made it easy to reach out to other maintainers when in need for good technical advice. “In addition,” says Meny, “the frequent FreeBSD conferences offer plenty of opportunities to get to know others in the community and to collaborate on joint projects.”

Another advantage of the tight community, says Meny, is “when you have a good product, word tends to spread quickly.”

When asked what he’d like others to know about FreeBSD, Meny offered:

“I’d like them to know that FreeBSD is a very stable and progressive OS. With FreeBSD, you have a real chance to make a difference, become a technical leader, and help shape the project’s future.”