SPDX-License-Identifier: Apache-2.0
Copyright (c) 2019-2020 Intel Corporation

Using FPGA in OpenNESS: Programming, Resource Allocation and Configuration


The FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card plays a key role in accelerating certain types of workloads which in-turn increases the overall compute capacity of a COTS platform. FPGA benefits include:

  • Flexibility - FPGA functionality can change upon every power-up of the device.
  • Acceleration - Get products to market quicker and/or increases your system performance.
  • Integration - Today’s FPGAs include on-die processors, transceiver I/O’s at 28 Gbps (or faster), RAM blocks, DSP engines, and more.
  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) - While ASICs may cost less per unit than an equivalent FPGA, building them requires a non-recurring expense (NRE), expensive software tools, specialized design teams, and long manufacturing cycles.

Deployment of AI/ML applications at the edge is increasing the adoption of FPGA acceleration. This trend of devices performing machine learning at the edge locally versus relying solely on the cloud is driven by the need to lower latency, persistent availability, lower costs and address privacy concerns.

This paper explains how the FPGA resource can be used on the OpenNESS platform for accelerating Network Functions and Edge application workloads. We use the Intel® FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card (Intel FPGA PAC) N3000 as a reference FPGA and use LTE/5G Forward Error Correction (FEC) as an example workload that accelerates the 5G or 4G L1 Base station Network function. The same concept and mechanism is applicable for application acceleration workloads like AI/ML on FPGA for Inference applications.

The Intel® FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card (Intel FPGA PAC) N3000 is a full-duplex 100 Gbps in-system re-programmable acceleration card for multi-workload networking application acceleration. It has the right memory mixture designed for network functions, with integrated network interface card (NIC) in a small form factor that enables high throughput, low latency, low-power/bit for custom networking pipeline.

FlexRAN is a reference Layer 1 pipeline of 4G eNb and 5G gNb on Intel architecture. The FlexRAN reference pipeline consists of L1 pipeline, optimized L1 processing modules, BBU pooling framework, Cloud and Cloud native deployment support and accelerator support for hardware offload. Intel® PAC N3000 card is used by FlexRAN to offload FEC (Forward Error Correction) for 4G and 5G and IO for Fronthaul/Midhaul.

Intel PAC N3000 FlexRAN host interface overview

The PAC N3000 card used in the FlexRAN solution exposes the following physical functions to the CPU host.

  • 2x25G Ethernet interface that can be used for Fronthaul or Midhaul
  • One FEC Interface that can be used of 4G or 5G FEC acceleration
    • The LTE FEC IP components have Turbo Encoder / Turbo decoder and rate matching / de-matching
    • The 5GNR FEC IP components have Low-density parity-check (LDPC) Encoder / LDPC Decoder, rate matching / de-matching, UL HARQ combining
  • Interface for managing and updating the FPGA Image – Remote system Update (RSU).

PAC N3000 Host interface overview

Figure - PAC N3000 Host interface

Intel PAC N3000 Orchestration and deployment with Kubernetes for FlexRAN

FlexRAN is the network function that implements the FEC and is a low latency network function. FlexRAN uses both the FEC and Ethernet resources from the FPGA using POD resource allocation and the Kubernetes device plugin framework. Kubernetes provides a device plugin framework that is used to advertise system hardware resources to the Kubelet. Instead of customizing the code for Kubernetes itself, vendors can implement a device plugin that can be deployed either manually or as a DaemonSet. The targeted devices include GPUs, high-performance NICs, FPGAs, InfiniBand adapters, and other similar computing resources that may require vendor specific initialization and setup.

Intel PAC N3000 Orchestration and deployment with OpenNESS Network Edge for FlexRAN

Figure - Intel PAC N3000 Orchestration and deployment with OpenNESS Network Edge for FlexRAN

Intel PAC N3000 remote system update flow in OpenNESS Network edge Kubernetes

Remote System Update (RSU) of the FPGA is enabled through Open Programmable Acceleration Engine (OPAE). The OPAE package consists of a kernel driver and user space FPGA utils package that enables programming of the FPGA. OpenNESS automates the process of deploying the OPAE stack as a Kubernetes POD that detects the FPGA and programs it. There is a separate FPGA Configuration POD which is deployed as a Kubernetes job which configures the FPGA resources such as Virtual Functions and queues.

OpenNESS Network Edge Intel PAC N3000 RSU and resource allocation

Figure - OpenNESS Network Edge Intel PAC N3000 RSU and resource allocation

Using FPGA on OpenNESS - Details

Further sections provide instructions on how to use all three FPGA features - Programming, Configuration and accessing from application on OpenNESS Network and OnPremises Edge.

When the PAC N3000 FPGA is programmed with a vRAN 5G FPGA image it exposes the Single Root I/O Virtualization (SRIOV) Virtual Function (VF) devices which can be used to accelerate the FEC in the vRAN workload. In order to take advantage of this functionality for a Cloud Native deployment the PF (Physical Function) of the device must be bound to DPDK IGB_UIO user-space driver in order to create a number of VFs (Virtual Functions). Once the VFs are created they must also be bound to a DPDK user-space driver in order to allocate them to specific K8s pods running the vRAN workload.

The full pipeline of preparing the device for a workload deployment and deploying the workload can be divided into following stages/sub-features:

  • Programming the FPGA with RTL factory and user images - Feature installation via Ansible automation and K8s kubectl plugin provided to use the feature.
  • Enabling SRIOV, binding devices to appropriate drivers and creation of VFs - Delivered as part of the Edge Node’s Ansible automation.
  • Queue configuration of FPGAs PF/VFs with an aid of DPDK Baseband Device (BBDEV) config utility - Docker image creation delivered as part of the Edge Nodes’s Ansible automation (Dependency on the config utility from FlexRAN package) - the images being pushed to local docker registry, Sample pod/job deployment via Helm charts.
  • Enabling orchestration/allocation of the devices (VFs) to non-root pods requesting the devices - leveraging the support of FPGA SRIOV VFs from K8s SRIOV Device Plugin. K8s Plugin deployment delivered as part of Edge Controller’s Ansible automation.
  • Simple sample BBDEV application to validate the pipeline (ie. SRIOV creation - Queue configuration - Device orchestration - Pod deployment) - Script delivery and instructions to build Docker image for sample application delivered as part of Edge Apps package.

It is assumed that the FPGA is always used with OpenNESS Network Edge, paired with Multus plugin (Multus CNI is a container network interface (CNI) plugin for Kubernetes that enables attaching multiple network interfaces to pods.) to enable the workload pod with a default K8s network interface.

FPGA (FEC) Ansible installation for OpenNESS Network Edge

To run the OpenNESS package with FPGA (FEC) functionality the feature needs to be enabled on both Edge Controller and Edge Node.

OpenNESS Experience Kit

To enable from OEK, change variable ne_opae_fpga_enable in group_vars/all/10-default.yml to true:

# group_vars/all/10-default.yml
ne_opae_fpga_enable: true

Additionally SRIOV must be enabled in OpenNESS:

# group_vars/all/10-default.yml
- kubeovn
- sriov

Also enable/configure following options in group_vars/all/10-default.yml. The following device config is the default config for the PAC N3000 with 5GNR vRAN user image tested (this configuration is common both to EdgeNode and EdgeController setup).

# group_var/all/10-default.yml

fpga_sriov_userspace_enable: true

  enabled: true
  vendor_id: "8086"
  vf_device_id: "0d90"
  pf_device_id: "0d8f"
  vf_number: "2"
  vf_driver: "vfio-pci"

The following packages need to be placed into specific directories in order for the feature to work:

  1. Clean copy of bbdev_config_service needs to be placed in the openness-experience-kits/fpga_config directory. The package can be obtained as part of 19.10 release of FlexRAN (Please contact your Intel representative or visit Resource Design Centre to obtain the package)

  2. OPAE package n3000-1-3-5-beta-rte-setup.zip needs to be placed inside openness-experience-kits/opae_fpga directory. The package can be obtained as part of PAC N3000 OPAE beta release (Please contact your Intel representative or visit Resource Design Centre to obtain the package)

  3. Factory image configuration package n3000-1-3-5-beta-cfg-2x2x25g-setup.zip needs to be placed inside openness-experience-kits/opae_fpga directory. The package can be obtained as part of PAC N3000 OPAE beta release (Please contact your Intel representative or visit Resource Design Centre to obtain the package)

Run setup script deploy_ne.sh.

On successful deployment following pods will be available in the cluster:

kubectl get pods -A

NAMESPACE     NAME                                      READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
kube-ovn      kube-ovn-cni-hdgrl                        1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-ovn      kube-ovn-cni-px79b                        1/1     Running   0          3d18h
kube-ovn      kube-ovn-controller-578786b499-74vzm      1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-ovn      kube-ovn-controller-578786b499-j22gl      1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-ovn      ovn-central-5f456db89f-z7d6x              1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-ovn      ovs-ovn-46k8f                             1/1     Running   0          3d18h
kube-ovn      ovs-ovn-5r2p6                             1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   coredns-6955765f44-mrc82                  1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   coredns-6955765f44-wlvhc                  1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   etcd-silpixa00394960                      1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   kube-apiserver-silpixa00394960            1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   kube-controller-manager-silpixa00394960   1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   kube-multus-ds-amd64-2zdqt                1/1     Running   0          3d18h
kube-system   kube-multus-ds-amd64-db8fd                1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   kube-proxy-dd259                          1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   kube-proxy-sgn9g                          1/1     Running   0          3d18h
kube-system   kube-scheduler-silpixa00394960            1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   kube-sriov-cni-ds-amd64-k9wnd             1/1     Running   0          3d18h
kube-system   kube-sriov-cni-ds-amd64-pclct             1/1     Running   0          3d19h
kube-system   kube-sriov-device-plugin-amd64-fhbv8      1/1     Running   0          3d18h
kube-system   kube-sriov-device-plugin-amd64-lmx9k      1/1     Running   0          3d19h
openness      eaa-78b89b4757-xzh84                      1/1     Running   0          3d18h
openness      edgedns-dll9x                             1/1     Running   0          3d18h
openness      interfaceservice-grjlb                    1/1     Running   0          3d18h
openness      nfd-master-dd4ch                          1/1     Running   0          3d19h
openness      nfd-worker-c24wn                          1/1     Running   0          3d18h
openness      syslog-master-9x8hc                       1/1     Running   0          3d19h
openness      syslog-ng-br92z                           1/1     Running   0          3d18h

FPGA Programming and telemetry on OpenNESS Network Edge

In order to program the FPGA factory image (One Time Secure Upgrade) or the user image (5GN FEC vRAN) of the PAC N3000 via OPAE a kubectl plugin for K8s is provided. The plugin also allows for obtaining basic FPGA telemetry. This plugin will deploy K8s jobs which will run to completion on desired host and display the logs/output of the command.

The following are the operations supported by the kubectl rsu K8s plugin, to be run from the Edge Controller:

  1. To display currently supported capabilities and information on how to use them:
kubectl rsu -h
  1. To run One Time Secure Upgrade of the factory image run:
    kubectl rsu flash -n <hostname>
  2. To display information about RSU supported devices that can be used to program the FPGA, and list FPGA user images available on the host run:
    kubectl rsu discover -n <hostname>
  3. To copy and sign a user image to desired platform, run the following (to obtain a user FPGA image for 5GNR vRAN (i.e ldpc5g_2x2x25g) please contact your Intel Representative) to copy an already signed image add --no-sign to the command:
    kubectl rsu load -f </path/to/image.bin> -n <hostname>
  4. To program the FPGA with user image (vRAN for 5GNR) run:
    kubectl rsu program -f <signed_RTL_image> -n <hostname> -d <RSU_PCI_bus_function_id>
  5. To obtain basic telemetry, such as temperature, power usage and FPGA image information run: ``` kubectl rsu get temp -n kubectl rsu get power -n kubectl rsu get fme -n

Sample output for correctly programmed card with get fme command

//** FME **// Object Id : 0xED00000 PCIe s:b:d.f : 0000:1b:00.0 Device Id : 0x0b30 Numa Node : 0 Ports Num : 01 Bitstream Id : 0x2145042A010304 Bitstream Version : 0.2.1 Pr Interface Id : a5d72a3c-c8b0-4939-912c-f715e5dc10ca Boot Page : user

7. For more information on usage of each `kubectl rsu` plugin capability run each command with `-h` argument.

In order to run vRAN workloads on the PAC N3000 the FPGA must be programmed with appropriate factory and user images as per instructions provided.

Additionally in a scenario where user would prefer to be able to deploy a K8s job for OPAE manually without the use of the `kubectl rsu` plugin the following sample .yml specification for the job can be used as a template, the `args` provided need to be changed accordingly, this job can be run with `kubectl create -f sample.yml`:

apiVersion: batch/v1
kind: Job
  name: fpga-opae-job
      - securityContext:
          privileged: true
        name: fpga-opea
        image: fpga-opae-pacn3000:1.0
        imagePullPolicy: Never
        command: [ "/bin/bash", "-c", "--" ]
        args: [ "./check_if_modules_loaded.sh && fpgasupdate /root/images/<img_name> <RSU_PCI_bus_function_id> && rsu bmcimg (RSU_PCI_bus_function_id)" ]
        - name: class
          mountPath: /sys/devices
          readOnly: false
        - name: image-dir
          mountPath: /root/images
          readOnly: false
      - hostPath:
          path: "/sys/devices"
        name: class
      - hostPath:
          path: "/temp/vran_images"
        name: image-dir
      restartPolicy: Never
        kubernetes.io/hostname: samplenodename

  backoffLimit: 0

Telemetry monitoring

Support for monitoring temperature and power telemetry of the FPGA PACN3000 is also provided from OpenNESS with a CollectD collector configured for flexran flavor. PACN3000 telemetry monitoring is provided to CollectD as a plugin. It collects the temperature and power metrics from the card and exposes them to Prometheus from which user can easily access the metrics. For more information on how to enable telemetry for FPGA in OpenNESS see telemetry whitepaper.

PACN3000 telemetry

FEC VF configuration for OpenNESS Network Edge

To configure the VFs with the necessary number of queues for the vRAN workload the BBDEV configuration utility is to be run as a job within a privileged container. The configuration utility is available to run as a Helm chart available from /opt/openness-helm-charts/fpga_config

Sample configMap (can be configured by changing values if other than typical config is required) with profile for the queue configuration is provided as part of Helm chart template /opt/openness-helm-charts/fpga_config/templates/fpga-config.yaml populated with values from /opt/openness-helm-charts/fpga_config/values.yaml. Helm chart installation requires a provision of host name for target node during job deployment.

Install the Helm chart providing configmap and BBDEV config utility job with following command from /opt/openness-helm-charts/ on Edge Controller:

helm install --set nodeName=<node_name> intel-fpga-cfg fpga_config

Check if the job has successfully completed and the pod created for this job is in “Completed” state. Check the logs of the pod to see complete successful configuration.

kubectl get pods
kubectl logs intel-fpga-cfg-<node_name>-xxxxx

Expected: Mode of operation = VF-mode FPGA_LTE PF [0000:xx:00.0] configuration complete!

To redeploy job on another node the following command can be used:

helm upgrade --set nodeName=<another_node_name> intel-fpga-cfg fpga_config

To uninstall the job run:

helm uninstall intel-fpga-cfg

Requesting resources and running pods for OpenNESS Network Edge

As part of OpenNESS Ansible automation a K8s SRIOV device plugin to orchestrate the FPGA VFs bound to user-space driver is running. This will enable scheduling of pods requesting this device/devices. Number of devices available on the Edge Node can be checked from Edge Controller by running:

kubectl get node <node_name> -o json | jq '.status.allocatable'

"intel.com/intel_fec_5g": "2"

To request the device as a resource in the pod add the request for the resource into the pod specification file, by specifying its name and amount of resources required. If the resource is not available or the amount of resources requested is greater than the amount of resources available, the pod status will be ‘Pending’ until the resource is available. Note that the name of the resource must match the name specified in the configMap for the K8s devices plugin (./fpga/configMap.yml).

A sample pod requesting the FPGA (FEC) VF may look like this:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: test
    env: test
  - name: test
    image: centos:latest
    command: [ "/bin/bash", "-c", "--" ]
    args: [ "while true; do sleep 300000; done;" ]
        intel.com/intel_fec_5g: '1'
        intel.com/intel_fec_5g: '1'

In order to test the resource allocation to the pod, save the above snippet to the sample.yaml file and create the pod.

kubectl create -f sample.yaml

Once the pod is in ‘Running’ state check that the device was allocated to the pod (an uioX device and an environmental variable with device PCI address should be available):

kubectl exec -it test -- ls /dev
kubectl exec -it test -- printenv | grep FEC

To check the amount of devices currently allocated to pods run (and search for ‘Allocated Resources’):

kubectl describe node <worker_node_host_name>

Verifying Application POD access and usage of FPGA on OpenNESS Network Edge

To verify the functionality of all the sub-features are working together (SRIOV binding - K8s device plugin - BBDEV config) and functionality of the FPGA (FEC) VF inside a non-root pod, build a Docker image and run a simple validation application for the device.

The automation of the Docker image build is available from the Edge Apps package. The image must be built on same node where it is meant to be deployed (or a server with same configuration as the node that will run the workload - this is due to Kernel dependencies of DPDK during the application build).

Navigate to:


Copy the necessary dpdk_19.11_new.patch file into the directory. This patch is available as part of FlexRAN 20.02 release package. To obtain this FlexRAN patch allowing 5G functionality for BBDEV in DPDK please contact your Intel representative or visit Resource Design Centre

Build image:


From the Edge Controller deploy the application pod, pod specification located at /fpga:

kubectl create -f fpga-sample-app.yaml

Execute into the application pod and run the sample app:

# enter the pod
kubectl exec -it pod-bbdev-sample-app -- /bin/bash

# run test application
./test-bbdev.py --testapp-path ./testbbdev -e="-w ${PCIDEVICE_INTEL_COM_INTEL_FEC_5G}" -i -n 1 -b 1 -l 1 -c validation -v ./test_vectors/ldpc_dec_v7813.data

# sample output
EAL: Detected 48 lcore(s)
EAL: Detected 2 NUMA nodes
EAL: Multi-process socket /var/run/dpdk/rte/mp_socket
EAL: Selected IOVA mode 'VA'
EAL: No available hugepages reported in hugepages-1048576kB
EAL: Probing VFIO support...
EAL: VFIO support initialized
EAL: PCI device 0000:20:00.1 on NUMA socket 0
EAL:   probe driver: 8086:d90 intel_fpga_5gnr_fec_vf
EAL:   using IOMMU type 1 (Type 1)

Starting Test Suite : BBdev Validation Tests
Test vector file = ./test_vectors/ldpc_dec_v7813.data
mcp fpga_setup_queuesDevice 0 queue 16 setup failed
Allocated all queues (id=16) at prio0 on dev0
Device 0 queue 16 setup failed
All queues on dev 0 allocated: 16
+ ------------------------------------------------------- +
== test: validation/latency
dev: 0000:20:00.1, burst size: 1, num ops: 1, op type: RTE_BBDEV_OP_LDPC_DEC
Operation latency:
        avg: 17744 cycles, 12.6743 us
        min: 17744 cycles, 12.6743 us
        max: 17744 cycles, 12.6743 us
TestCase [ 0] : latency_tc passed
 + ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ +
 + Test Suite Summary : BBdev Validation Tests
 + Tests Total :        1
 + Tests Skipped :      0
 + Tests Passed :       1
 + Tests Failed :       0
 + Tests Lasted :       95.2308 ms
 + ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ +

The output of the application should indicate total of ‘1’ tests and ‘1’ test passing, this concludes the validation of the FPGA VF working correctly inside K8s pod.