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August 31, 2022
VMWARE EXPLORE — The release of VMware vSphere 8 promises to drive a new class of virtual servers powered by GPUs and DPUs. AMD and Nvidia revealed on Tuesday that servers powered by their respective DPUs are set to arrive this fall.
OEMs Dell Technologies, HPE and Lenovo are among the first planning to ship servers with DPUs, or data processing units. The companies announced their deliverables at the VMware Explore conference in San Francisco. VMware’s vSphere 8 is the outgrowth of Project Monterey, the company’s next-generation virtualization platform, which includes support for SmartNICs. Project Monterey also consists of a redesign of VMware Cloud Foundation.
VMware designed the new Distributed Services Engine in vSphere 8 to modernize infrastructures into a distributed architecture. Using servers that have DPUs, VMware said it would support modern distributed workloads with accelerated networking.
VMware’s Raghu Raghuram
“In a single server, a single compute infrastructure, you have a variety of processors, the CPU, the GPU, and an exciting new processor called the data processing unit on vSphere,” VMware CEO Raghu Raghuram said during the opening keynote at VMware Explore.
Raghuram added that vSphere 8 “is going to be the single platform that allows you to deploy and manage workloads and run them effectively and securely regardless of the underlying costs or technologies. This is going to allow you to run not only today’s applications but the next decade of AI and machine learning applications and data applications.”
DPUs are “basically NICs on steroids,” added Duncan Epping, chief technologist in VMware’s office of the CTO. “NICs [have] a lot more CPU power, memory capacity and bandwidth/throughput. These devices not only enable you to push more packets and do it faster, but they also provide the ability to run services directly on these cards.”
According to Nvidia, its BlueField DPUs will enable accelerated workloads of Kubernetes-based cloud applications in hybrid and distributed environments. Nvidia started co-engineering efforts with VMware two years ago, Kevin Deierling, Nvidia’s senior VP of networking, told media and analysts.
“Together, we are reinventing the data center with vSphere 8 and the BlueField DPU coming together to bring the best of these worlds, of AI, accelerated computing, and the enterprise operating system that is now offloaded, accelerated and isolated,” Deierling said.
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Dell will deliver the first servers with Nvidia’s BlueField DPUs, GPUs, and Nvidia’s AI Enterprise software integrated VMware vSphere 8. Deierling noted that Dell will offer the DPU-based servers on its high volume R750 and R650 2U and 1U servers. Dell is also offering it on its VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) platform. Dell expects to ship the servers in November.
Deierling said the introduction of DPUs is necessary for modern applications that use AI and consume large amounts of data.
“The Bluefield DPU is an accelerated computing platform that runs the infrastructure software of the data center and combines the world’s best networking, accelerators, and embedded Arm CPU cores,” he explained. “This combination simplifies infrastructure and management, boosts performance and strengthens security.”
Pranay Prakash, CEO of Dihuni, a provider of deep learning and AI-based solutions, has partnerships with Nvidia, Dell and VMware.
Dihuni’s Pranay Prakash
“This is a nicely packaged solution,” Prakash said. “What’s really new is the advantages of DPUs, which help with security and network offload, improving overall performance, and with VMware, they can be managed in a virtualized environment. We will see more DPUs in servers going forward.”
Dell, HPE and Lenovo are also planning to have DPU options with AMD’s Pensando Distributed Services Card. The AMD Pensando DPU is programable and designed for software-defined infrastructure. The VMware vSphere Distributed Services Engine integrated with AMD Pensando DPUs aims to free workloads from CPU resources. According to AMD, the DPUs also provide additional security by isolating infrastructure services from server tenant workloads.
A leading financial services firm, a multicloud hoster and a leading business applications provider are among the first customers that have piloted solutions with AMD’s Penando DPU.
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Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.
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