Pensando recruits NetApp as acceleration chip customer

Accelerator card startup Pensando Systems emerged from stealth this month, announcing it had raised $278m in three rounds since its inception in 2017. What has gotten investors so fired up?

One clue could be that NetApp has signed up as a customer.

NetApp’s A400 all-flash ONTAP array, announced today, uses a Pensando chip to offload some data reduction processing from the main controller CPUs.

The ASIC chip performs compression, decompression and checksum calculations for deduplication and is located on the A400’s cluster interconnect card, which uses 100GbitE. The actual deduplication is performed by WAFL functionality inside ONTAP.

A400 Cluster Interconnect card enclosure. Note the large heatsink

This is NetApp’s first step into such a hardware offload and it may spread across the AFF all-flash array range.

Pensando is pitching its technology as a faster, more scalable alternative to AWS Nitro. Last week the company said its proprietary accelerator card, which is still in development, was influenced by input from vendors such as NetApp, HPE and Equinix. The card is already used by multiple Fortune 500 customers such as Goldman Sachs, which is also an investor.

HPE was a lead investor in Pensando’s recent £145m C-series funding, so it is reasonable to infer that the accelerator technology will pop up in HPE gear in due course.