Nvidia has given VAST Data an unexpected boost by releasing a report showing that customers using its DPU for Bluefield server offloading in large enough numbers need fewer servers. VAST’s Ceres storage box has a Bluefield front-end and is perfectly suited for Bluefield server users.
The Nvidia DPU Power Efficiency report states that reducing the number of servers in a data center can help the operator use less electricity to power and cool their server holdings.
The report states: “In typical servers, virtualization, networking, storage, security, management and provisioning are all handled by VMs, containers or agents running on the server’s core CPUs. Not only does this consume up to 30 percent of processor cycles, but a CPU isn’t efficient at running these types of infrastructure workloads.
A DPU is a domain-specific accelerator, like a GPU, that “frees up server CPU cores to run the types of applications they do best”. The Bluefield DPU (Data Processing Unit) uses specialized hardware to perform infrastructure-specific operations, such as data encryption/decryption, key management, etc. related to storage and networking, more efficiently than a server’s generic x86 CPU. Additionally, “DPU cores can perform SDN, telemetry, deep packet inspection, or other network tasks more efficiently than the server CPU.”
The report contains several examples of spreadsheet-like costs to support its point, with a final total cost of ownership (TCO) calculation based on a 10,000-server data center offering IPsec encryption/decryption to BlueField DPUs. The three-year TCO for these 10,000 servers without BlueField is $148 million. Adding BlueField to the mix allows the operator to get rid of 1,800 servers and reduce the three-year TCO to $121.7 million, a savings of $26.6 million, or 17.8%, as shown in a table in the report:
The report concludes that: “In a world facing rising energy costs and growing demand for green IT infrastructure, the use of DPUs will become increasingly popular to reduce TCO by reducing both CapEx and OpEx in the data center.”
Nvidia obviously has a vested interest here: it sells BlueField DPUs. But even Intel, the CPU king for x86 servers, calls them IPUs (Infrastructure Processing Units), as does the x86 pretender AMD, with its acquisition Thinking.
VAST Data sells its scale-out all-flash storage in Ceres-branded enclosures. They are 1RU in size and can hold up to 22 Solidigm D5-P5316 E1.L 9.5mm drives, using 144-layer 3D NAND and a PCIe 4.0 interface, in capacities of 15.36 or 30.72TB. VAST claims that Ceres makes it “possible to build highly available flash storage enclosures without the need for power-hungry x86 processors.” Right on message regarding Nvidia.
We expect VAST to take this report from Nvidia and create its own BlueField-powered storage TCO savings spreadsheets.
Filers using x86 controllers are at a disadvantage here. But flash JBODs, like KumoScale from Kioxia, can more easily add front-end BlueField access and play in the same general server offload arena as VAST Data.