FPGA Platforms: Why Metamako is best of breed

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FPGA Platforms: Why Metamako is best of breed

Posted on September 12, 2017 by Matthew Knight 12 September 2017

Traditionally, building an FPGA based application was hard. It required hardware designers, gateware designers, software designers, system admins, and more. There was no standard platform: either an FPGA add-in card needed to be purchased and set up in a server, or a single-function device was bought.

Metamako changed all that by building a generic, feature-rich platform, opening it up for development and using this development framework to build their own apps. Features available in the Metamako FPGA platform include:

  • Devices with 32 ports, 48 ports (1 RU) or 96 ports (2 RU) supporting 1/10 GbE all connected to a fully-meshed Layer 1+ switch
  • Per-port features such as Ethernet statistics and even the integrated ability to monitor the port's eye pattern
  • Ability to replicate any stream to another port or ports for capture/analytics 
  • A fully-integrated x86 management processor running Linux
  • Operation telemetry and counters sampled every second available in a local time-series database
  • The same range of devices available with both Intel (Altera) and Xilinx FPGA options
  • Optional OCXO and Atomic (Rubidium) Clock Modules
  • FPGA-based applications such as MetaMux, MetaWatch and MetaFilter

Features alone are only part of the story however. We focused at an early stage on the process of bringing complete products to market; ensuring that they were stable, documented, fully supportable and subject to regular upgrades. Readily available inventory held geographically close to the majority of electronic trading markets allowed us to meet the the rapid turnaround requirements of this mission critical industry with guaranteed SLAs. The products are supported by experienced engineers and developers with full access to all of the internal resources required to provide the best possible client experience.

The reality is that every day many of the most technically-adept firms, in electronic trading and beyond, place their faith in Metamako to connect them to the markets. 

The Metamako FPGA platform

Metamako's FPGA platforms all inherit the benefits of the MetaConnect layer 1+ network devices coupled with a comprehensive FPGA development kit allowing end-users to deploy their own FPGA applications on the devices. The FPGA platforms are split into three series: K-Series, C-Series and E-Series. Each series is available in a 32 port, 48 port (1 RU) or 96 port (2 RU) chassis.


The series differ in the FPGA module used:

  • K-Series devices combine a single Xilinx Virtex 7 415T FPGA with either 8 GB (48/96 port) or 32 GB (32port) of DDR3 DRAM
  • C-Series devices contain a single Intel Arria 10 GX 1150 FPGA which can be ordered with up to 720 Mb of QDR II+ SRAM
  • E-Series devices are available with either one or three Xilinx Kintex UltraScale KU095 or Virtex UltraScale+ VU9P FPGAs


All Metamako FPGA platforms integrate a self-contained x86 server, Layer 1+ Switch and FPGA module in a dense 1 RU or 2 RU device. From a device management perspective, there are a number of options including an industry standard CLI (Command-Line Interface), build-in support for industry standard authentication and automation tools, a Web GUI as well as a REST API. Essentially, the FPGA platforms are designed to look and feel like a network device and unlike most component solutions (FPGA card in server), as such, does not require custom built monitoring and management solutions.

Metamako FPGA platforms are ideal to support applications across multiple industries such as reconfigurable computing, high performance computing, machine learning, medical electronics, network bandwidth shaping and management, video compression, ultra-fast data storage and retrieval, programmable networking and geoscience applications.

Metamako FPGA platforms are in use today by a number of communication service providers such as Avelacom to accelerate their network processing power, leading ultra-low-latency software vendors such as Enyx to provide their clients bandwidth and link optimisation as well as by leading electronic trading firms to run their proprietary in-house developed applications such as data distribution, trading algorithms and risk management checks.

An integrated FPGA platform

1. FPGA Development Kit

The fully-supported and comprehensive Metamako FPGA development kit offers:

  • Full support for Vivado (Xilinx) and Quartus (Intel) toolchains
  • Monitoring and debugging from the management processor or remotely via on-board JTAG
  • Programming the FPGA from the management processor, or via dedicated configuration flash memory
  • An abstraction of the 1/10 GbE SFP/SFP+ interfaces via the Layer 1+ switch taking care of signal integrity with negligible impact on latency
  • A full range of network, core and time synchronisation clocks
  • PCI Express 2.0 and 1GbE between the management processor and FPGA

2. Platform   


As an integrated platform, the combination of the x86 management processor, FPGA and Layer 1+ switch allows the ability to leverage:

  • The Layer 1 switch to broadcast a stream to multiple FPGA transceivers for parallel processing
  • The management processor to wrap up the FPGA image as an "application" RPM for ease of deployment
  • The management processor to deploy applications locally leveraging the Linux APIs and configuration management tools
  • Up to 76 individual 1/10 GbE FPGA transceivers
3. Specialist Use Cases
  • FPGA-based custom Ethernet Switch/Router with up to 76 ports
  • FPGA-based application-level router or firewall
  • Network data processing platform e.g. Custom intrusion detection system
  • Custom network and networked-application analytics

4. Factors to consider when building an FPGA based product

  • Fully integrated or requires a server to host it
  • Integrated with a Layer 1 switch offering flexible stream distribution and replication options
  • Ethernet port density
  • Power and cooling
  • Footprint in physical rack units
  • Are JTAG dongles for programming, monitoring and debugging the FPGA required
  • Software support, software updates, interoperability, combined hardware/software support

In Summary - Why Metamako is best of breed

  • Metamako has established itself in a wide range of sectors, including electronic trading, government/defence and telecommunications, as a leading vendor of Layer 1+ switches and software with class-leading reliability, features and support
  • For third-parties and end-users wishing to deploy their own FPGA applications on a device, there are three series of FPGA devices available, each comprising a self-contained x86 server, Layer 1+ Switch and FPGA module in a port-dense 1 RU or 2 RU device
  • These FPGA devices start at 32 FPGA transceivers in a single RU making them extremely attractive for custom FPGA-based networking and networked applications
  • Metamako provides support for end-user FPGA applications and deployment via its comprehensive FPGA development kits
  • Implementors have a broad range of options for device management and monitoring, application deployment, configuration management and automation
  • Clients deploying FPGA applications to Metamako FPGA devices benefit from an off-the-shelf, stable and supported platform, offering flexible management to underpin their applications
  • Many of the most technically-adept electronic trading firms and national markets rely on Metamako switches to connect their trading servers to trading venues â€“ a testament to the reliability and quality of Metamako devices in critical environments 

Further useful reading:

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