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NVIDIA may reign supreme in the server market with its BlueField DPU

A few weeks ago, Nvidia officially announced its successful acquisition of ARM. With this announcement came accusations from various semiconductor industries stating that such an acquisition will result in an unfair advantage for Nvidia. The chipsets manufactured by ARM are used by almost every semiconductor industry in the market.

But another concern among tech giants is that ARM acquisition will enable Nvidia to reign supreme in the server market. This doubt is a fact and is supported by many business analysts. Nvidia is already preparing to make use of all the newly acquired Ips from ARM. The company unveiled its vision for Data Processing Units (DPUs) as a complement component for server-grade CPUs.

The new DPUs from Nvidia is codenamed as BlueField and they have combined technologies of both ARM and also from Nvidia’s previous acquisition Mellanox. It is worth noting that the networking technology of Mellanox is one of the top-rated high-end technology in the networking market.

The current tech available in BlueField involves Mellanox’s network cards and an additional ARM-based processor. Nvidia plans on adding a GPU in its later iteration of the DPU.

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The latest Mellanox CoonectX-6 Dx processor powers the network components. The network interface has a data transfer speed of 2x 100 Gbps. The ARM-based processor, on the other hand, consists of 8x fully programmable ARM Cortex-A72 cores. It contains 2x Very Long Instruction Word (VLIM) engines which make the CPU performance 30% faster.

How will the new Data Processing Unit work?

The DPU will handle the networking via RDMA/RoCE and GPU Direct plus SDN/NVF. The memory management/storage acceleration tasks will be handled via NVMe-over Fabrics, and also using Elastic Block Storage and compression.

Security tasks are handled through the “root of trust” encryption and key management while using a “regular expression” engine. Nvidia’s BlueField is said to provide enough processing power to replace up to 125 CPU cores.

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Nvidia has provided its proprietary SDK called DOCA (Data Center Infrastructure-on-a-Chip Architecture), to manage the software side of the DPU.

The first DPUs are scheduled to hit the market in 2021. They will be called BlueField-2. Reportedly, there will also be a BlueField-2X version that will include an Ampere GPU.

Nvidia announced its plans of releasing a BlueField-3 version by 2022, which will be powered by an improved ARM processor and 400 Gbps of NICs. The company also plans to release a BlueField-3X version that will sport a GPU capable of 75 TOPS. by 2023, Nvidia plans to merge the NIC, ARM cores, and its GPU into a single SoC named BlueField-4 that will be capable of delivering 400 TOPS and 1,000 SPECINT.

The plans of Nvidia seems to be ambitious. Whether the GPU manufacturer will reign supreme in the server market remains to be seen.

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Nivedita Bangari
Nivedita Bangari
I am a software engineer by profession and technology is my love, learning and playing with new technologies is my passion.
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