The DPU, a key part of network computing, is a new accelerated computing element. It is an integrated system on a chip that combines a programmable multi-core Arm CPU, state-of-the-art SmartNIC networking, high-performance PCIe interface, and a powerful set of networking, storage, and security features. It offloads functions like software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined storage (SDS), and encryption and security processing from the host CPU. In the traditional model, legacy appliances or the CPU were required to run data center services. In the hardware-accelerated, NVIDIA BlueField DPU-enabled server, these services are offloaded to the DPU, freeing the CPU to run applications, and accelerating data centre services that are safe, reliable, convenient, and powerful.
Today's data centres must run a combination of modern, accelerated applications - such as AI and high-performance data analytics, alongside existing legacy applications. Traditional data centre networking, storage, and security technologies can effectively deal with north-south traffic coming in and out of the data centre. But they are inadequate to address distributed, Cloud-native, accelerated workloads based on dynamic microservices. These services move around the data centre as workloads scale out, and most of the traffic is east-west, or between nodes within the data centre. Moreover, fixed-function security appliances lack the flexibility to scale and support Cloud-native applications, and thus expose a large attack surface through unprotected east-west communications and virtual machine (VM)-to-VM traffic.
The software-defined data centre implements networking, storage, and security functions as software running on powerful servers, and is more flexible and scalable than architectures based on fixed appliances. It also achieves application compatibility and resource scalability by pushing data centre functions into software running on VMs or containers. However, this flexibility and scalability comes at the expense of additional CPU loading as a result of software-defined services and resource virtualization. The challenge is to conserve precious CPU resources while efficiently integrating and accelerating Cloud, data access, and AI capabilities with the scalability of software-defined data centres and Cloud-native applications.
Through a dedicated intelligent hardware-accelerated data centre services chip, the Cloud SmartNIC solution enables advanced networking functions of the software-defined data centre, such as virtual switching and routing, load balancing, and virtual machine and container networking services. For storage, the NVMe controller is accelerated by the DPU to allow high-performance flash to be spread across all the nodes in the data centre and offer elastic block storage capabilities to applications. As the foundation of a secure platform, the DPU offers a hardware root of trust, secure firmware authentication and updates, and encryption accelerators. Additional advanced security accelerators offload connection tracking, deep packet inspection, and regular expression matching to accelerate next-generation firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems.
Liu Jun, GM of AI and HPC at Inspur, noted: "Inspur is innovating four key processes in the data centre - producing, scheduling, aggregating, and releasing AI computing power. The Cloud SmartNIC solution can efficiently empower computing power aggregation, deliver maximum computing power, and effectively tackle major challenges in big data analytics, data processing, and hyperscale AI model training."
"Solutions that build on NVIDIA BlueField-2 DPUs deliver more efficient accelerated networking functions for users of enterprise applications. Optimized to offload critical networking, storage and security tasks from CPUs, BlueField-2 DPUs enable organisations to transform their IT infrastructure into state-of-the-art data centers that are accelerated, fully programmable and armed with 'zero-trust' security features to prevent data breaches and cyberattacks", stated Erik Pounds, head of product marketing, enterprise computing, at NVIDIA.