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What Is A Data Processing Unit (DPU) And Why Is NVIDIA Betting On It?

At the GPU Technology Conference 2020, Jensen Huang, NVIDIA’s CEO, unveiled a new family of processors branded as the BlueField-2 Data Processing Unit (DPU). The DPU is accessible to the developers via the software platform, the DOCA SDK. The DPU and DOCA SDK are comparable to NVIDIA’s powerful combination of GPU hardware and CUDA software.  

Having dominated the AI accelerator market, NVIDIA is now aiming to expand it to the data center infrastructure acceleration and optimization. 

Why is Jensen Huang bullish about the DPU market and how it matters to the enterprise data center? Here is an attempt to explain the evolution of DPU in simple terms.

The Aggregation and Disaggregation of Enterprise Infrastructure

During the 90s, the combination of Intel x86 CPU and OS software offered unmatched power to enterprises. The rise of client/server computing, followed by n-tier computing, paved the way for distributed computing.

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NVIDIA Wants To Change The Game Yet Again With The ‘DPU’

This week, I tuned into NVIDIA’s annual GPU Technology Conference, or GTC, albeit virtually due to the pandemic. The processor powerhouse has a long history of category-defining innovation, dating back to its launch of the first 3D GPU in 1999. This week’s keynote was chock full of news and innovation, including another all-new processor category designed to muscle NVIDIA into the datacenter market. Let’s take a look at the new processor and several other announcements from GTC 2020.

Look out, data center market

One of the most significant announcements was the unveiling of the DPU (data processing unit)—a whole new category of processors designed to offload networking, security, and storage tasks from CPUs in the data center. Essentially, you can think of these DPUs as smart NICs. Under the new family moniker BlueField, NVIDIA unveiled the first two of these accelerators: the BlueField-2 and the BlueField-2X.

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