At VMware Explore 2022, VMware announced that vSphere 8 would run on Intel, NVIDIA, and Pensando DPUs. The Pensando DPU is harder to get than the NVIDIA BlueField offerings (but easier than the Intel offerings.) Pensando DPUs are also designed to have more networking capabilities than their competition.
VMware vSphere 8 to Offload Key Functions via AMD Pensando DPU
AMD’s Pensando team has deep networking expertise. As a result, they are focused on the scaling challenges from a networking background.
Pensando is focused on providing line-rate performance for security and other functions on the DPU.
Pensando says that its solution is different than other solutions because it has a different architecture. Here, the leftmost is something like NVIDIA, but NVIDIA has the PCIe Gen4 switch in its current BlueField-2 DPU architecture. The middle seems to be more like the New Intel Mount Evans IPU ASIC DPU.
Here is the current-generation AMD Pensando “Elba” architecture:
We are just going to note that NVIDIA’s BlueField-1 DPUs were mainly storage-focused, and they are used in commercial products like VAST Data storage arrays. BlueField-2 has been available to purchase via the web and one can get running in a few minutes. We even have a guide on How to Get NVIDIA BlueField-2 DPU Running on Windows 11 Pro. BlueField-3 is a big architecture change and is currently shipping in low quantities. The AMD offering allegedly has large customers, but it seems more like a bespoke offering at this point. The Intel Intel Mount Evans DPU is currently focused on the Google Cloud deployment before it is available broadly. Even though we have seen them, we expect that they will be available more broadly in 2023. We have also done hands-on with the at the Big Spring Canyon Intel IPU but that is x86 so it would already work with VMware without Project Monterey.
What was also interesting is that AMD showed its plan for its DPU silicon for VMware Explore 2022.
Pensando’s SDK is focused on enabling both CSPs and partners like VMware to implement its solution. The Pensando SSDK is what VMware used to bring vSphere 8 to Pensando.
AMD is going to market with HPE and Dell EMC. Lenovo will follow in the future. NVIDIA only announced Dell EMC as a launch partner. The DPU enablement will take time, so the vendors are talking about moving from no-offloads (using these as NICs) to adding vSphere networking offload, and then full offload for other workloads we assume like vSAN and more.
AMD is also using the Pensando IP to go after more ports across different types of boxes and NICs.
It even says it is focused on AMD EPYC solutions with Pensando in the future.
Overall, the AMD Pensando DPU announcement with VMware vSphere 8 is a big deal. Pensando has a big programmable P4 engine and accelerators that are designed to run networking and security offloads at wire speed.
We asked for pricing of vSphere 8 on Pensando DPUs but we did not get an answer prior to going live with this piece.