One of the newer technologies gaining ground in data centers today is the Data Processing Unit (DPU). As VMware has observed , “In simple terms, a DPU is a programable device with hardware acceleration as well as having an ARM CPU complex capable of processing data. Today the DPU is available as a SmartNIC (PCIe Form Factor) that can be plugged in to a server and help with several functions.”
As data centers evolve to handle the exponential demand on infrastructure services generated by modern workloads, what are the potential advantages of offloading critical infrastructure services like network, security, and storage from the CPU to a DPU?
That’s the question we posed to members of the Foundry/IDG Influencer Network, a community of industry analysts, IT professionals, and journalists.
Meeting the infrastructure needs of next-gen data-centric applications
While their viewpoints were varied, as would be expected, Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), President of StarCIO and a Digital Transformation Leader and Influencer, expressed the views of many when he said, “The next generation of high-scale applications, including AR/VR, real-time vision systems, and smart cities, will expand the scale and performance requirements of the compute, data processing, and networking performed in CPU compute-intensive architectures.”
He continued: “In the same way GPUs accelerated graphical capabilities in entertainment and gaming applications, DPUs can help organizations create architectures to support next-gen reliability, performance, and security requirements. Think of scaling these next-gen applications to support hundreds of thousands of active users, and the potential advantage is using SmartNICs and DPUs to ensure high performance, reduce compute costs, and lower energy consumption.”
A number of Influencers cited the pivotal role DPUs will play as data volumes and their importance increase.
“With the explosion of data, demand for speed, and complex analytics, the CPUs at data centers can be heavily constrained,” said Helen Yu (@YuHelenYu), Founder and CEO of Tigon Advisory Corp. “By offloading data storage and optimizing the network, the DPU frees the CPU power for mission-critical applications. In other words, adding DPUs is like de-bottlenecking at data centers, providing more fire power and performance with the same CPU architecture.”
Chuck Brooks (@ChuckDBrooks), President of Brooks Consulting International and Adjunct Faculty at Georgetown University, concurred. “In an increasingly data-centric world, offloading critical infrastructure services allows for businesses to have more control of their storage, computer processing, and management. . . . And the strategy of offloading and isolation certainly will help fortify cybersecurity.”
“The exponential generation of organizational data has made data collection, input, processing, and output extremely costly,” observed Peter B. Nichol (@PeterBNichol), Chief Technology Officer at Oroca Innovations.” This has led to the greater adoption of DPUs that bring the data processing closer to the data. A data-centric architecture avoids dated paradigms of moving data to where the compute is located and alternatively moves the compute function to the data.”
Security as a key aspect of running highly reliable and available systems
According to Adam Stein (@apstein2), Principal at APS Marketing, there are three distinct advantages of a multi-cloud, DPU-first, system-on-a-chip approach.
“First, modern apps and their storage response times accelerate, are more resilient, agile, accessible, and easily run from anywhere. DPUs easily scale to mobile and edge capabilities for feeding modern application demands including always available data.
“Second, enterprise apps run across multiple geographically diverse cloud environments. DPUs, under VMWare’s Project Monterey, offer a new network security airgap plus helps enterprises move data closer to where it is used, even when in motion, ensuring apps always have rapid access.
“And third, CPU-to-DPU migration helps developers securely scale and configure hundreds of locations, apps, and devices quickly and easily. The DPU strategy powers hybrid edge computing popularity and easily addresses use cases above and beyond any singular cloud instance.”
Other Influencers cited the additional layer of security as a key aspect of a DPU.
“Moving network and security functions to a DPU allows server CPUs to be more efficient at running core applications and operating systems without sacrificing security controls,” said Kayne McGladrey (@kaynemcgladrey), Security Architect at Ascent Solutions LLC. “DPUs should also expedite the application of Zero Trust principles by allowing finer-grained micro-segmentation of applications and networks so that there is limited or no unearned trust.”
“Let’s face it, data is ever moving now in perimeter-less security,” said George Gerchow (@georgegerchow), CSO and SVP of IT at Sumo Logic. “Offloading traditional infrastructure services to DPUs will allow organizations to scale and become more efficient in managing and securing data flow.”
Added APS Marketing’s Stein: “DPUs offer superior enterprise IT micro-segmentation as a data center and cloud security best practice with granular control including Zero Trust.”
According to Steve Guilford (LinkedIn: Steven Guilford), CEO of AsterionDB, “Offloading network and security services to a dedicated DPU has distinct advantages in the AsterionDB architecture. We turn middle-tier devices into elastic security isolation components that focus specifically on networking requirements without any concern for data or business logic. This allows for the implementation of a generic API interface to centralized resources in the AsterionDB architecture. Generic APIs typically reveal a single entry-point. This single entry point thusly does not reveal any information to an infiltrator, which obviously greatly enhances security.”
Adam Stern (@iv_cloudhosting), Founder and CEO of Infinitely Virtual, said that when deployed wisely and well, DPUs can prove to be a godsend. “Operations performed in silicon are faster and, in the main, safer than software-driven tasks,” he added.
Nikolay Ganyushkin (LinkedIn: Nikolay Ganyushkin), CEO and co-founder of Acure, sees the rise of DPUs in the context of a number of other recent trends.
“We see it now in the development of corporate strategies and organizational structure, where agile teams greatly reduce the overhead of administrative staff,” he said. “We also see this in the development of enterprise applications, where we are moving from monolithic structures to microservice architectures that are much more stable and easier to scale. We see the same trend in hardware: DPUs allow you to move the center of decision-making to the periphery and provide reduced loads on critical infrastructure areas.”
The last word goes to Ben Rothke (@benrothke), Senior Information Security Specialist at Tapad, who went straight to the point: “Those needing massive amounts of processing power, network speeds, or high-performance storage will find benefits in the use of DPU servers.”
For more information about DPUs and VMware’s Project Monterey, go to URL