At VMware Explore 2022 (formerly, and better named VMworld), NVIDIA and VMware made a major announcement. VMware will support running on the BlueField-2 DPU, and we are going to hope the BlueField-3 DPUs that just entered production recently but are in *very* tight supply.
NVIDIA BlueField-2 will Run VMware vSphere 8 for NSX Offloads and More
The big news today is that VMware Project Monterey with VMware ESXi on Arm on DPU is now going mainstream. As part of that, we have two big DPU announcements.
One of them is that VMware vSphere can now be run on the NVIDIA BlueField DPUs.
NVIDIA is using the opportunity to further deepen its relationship with VMware, especially by bringing lucrative AI Enterprise support contracts into the mix. This is a major component of NVIDIA’s strategy to grow data center revenue and margin.
Here is the NVIDIA AI Enterprise Software suite that the company is bringing to make VMware-based AI acceleration to acceptable levels. Years ago, VMware was both a costly license and had significantly worse GPU performance for AI training than using something standard like Ubuntu, so this required a lot of work and productization to make happen.
Here is the company’s overview of the BlueField-2’s cpabilities. The BlueField-3 we expect to be a major jump from the current generation.
Here is a quick look at a NVIDIA BlueField-2 DPU with 2x 100GbE connections:
We also have looked at a few fun ways to use DPUs in pieces such as the ZFS without a Server Using the NVIDIA BlueField-2 DPU. Many of these concepts are key to how the devices work with VMware, although the VMware collaboration is clearly more expansive.
One of the keys is that VMware is not just using this as a vSAN offload engine. Instead, it is using the BlueField-2 DPU to offload NSX DFW and NSX IDS/ IPS for network and security offloads.
NVIDIA says that by offloading NSX and more to the BlueField-2 DPU yields 6x 3-year ROI by removing the need for CPU cores to do this work.
NVIDIA is going to market with Dell. Dell and VMware have a close relationship, but we wish that NVIDIA went out with more partners.
This is a great development in the data center space.
Overall, this is something we hoped would happen earlier, but it is also something that we are glad to see. The enterprise data center needs a DPU model and software to support it. VMware is the way this will get done first. It is great to see this happen.
We were not able to get pricing for NVIDIA BlueField-2 DPU with vSphere before publishing this article.
If you want to learn more about DPUs, check out our What is a DPU? A Data Processing Unit Quick Primer.
Also, since even the VMware executives on the pre-brief got “SmartNIC” and “DPU” confused, we have a guide on the DPU vs SmartNIC and the STH NIC Continuum Framework:
We asked, and VMware clarified that SmartNICs and DPUs are different and that vSphere would be focused on DPUs.