Pensando tech slashes network management costs – but you may need 2,000-servers to benefit

Enterprises with 2,000-plus servers could save up to 84 per cent in various network monitoring and management costs over three years by by using Pensando SmartNIC server offload chips.

This is the headline finding of an Enterprise Strategy Group Economic Validation report, published yesterday: “ESG’s analysis found that Pensando’s scale-out software-defined services approach enabled organisations to centralise management, simplify administration, and optimise performance.”

“Carriers and CSPs have embraced a ‘scale-out’ approach, which enables services to be run on homogeneous, industry-standard server hardware,” ESG adds. “The challenge is that spinning up network or security functions on the generic servers employed by carriers and CSPs burns CPU resources and is generally less efficient and performant than specialty hardware.”

Pensando, a California startup, has built the Arm-powered Naples DSC (Distributed Services Card) which connects to a host server across a PCIe interface. The card offloads and accelerates networking, storage and management tasks from its host server, freeing up the host CPU to run application workloads instead of infrastructure-focused tasks. 

Pensando Naples DSC card.

Pensando’s DSC card replaces speciality hardware appliances. Infrastructure services such as security, encryption, flow-based packet telemetry, and fabric storage services are deployed on the DSC at every server. Pensando provides Policy and Services Manager (PSM) software to carry out centralised management. PSM collects events, logs, and metrics from the installed DSCs to speed troubleshooting.

Costs and savings

In its report, ESG notes: ”While at first glance it might seem expensive to implement Pensando hardware and software into each data centre server ESG’s modelled scenarios demonstrate significant savings for both traditional enterprises and cloud service providers.”

In other words the performance and related savings per server are not enough at a server level to justify the Pensando card cost. But the total cost of ownership savings across large fleets of servers, 2,000 and upwards in ESG’s scenarios, over three years make the expense of buying Pensando cards worthwhile.

The ESG researchers modelled two scenarios, an enterprise data centre with 2,000 servers each fitted with a DSC card, and a cloud services provider with 20,000 similarly equipped servers. 

ESG Enterprise model. 

ESG calculated the costs of network adapters and monitoring appliances, east-west firewalls, load balancers, micro-segmentation nodes, and their associated license fees and operational expenditures (Opex). These were summed over three years and compared with the same servers fitted with Pensando DSCs and services software.

In the enterprise model and over three years, ESG’s model predicts a total three-year savings of $16,180,092, or 84 per cent. In the cloud services provider model ESG’s model predicts total three-year savings of $104,456,894, or 64 per cent. These are large numbers and suggest that enterprises and CSP with a thousand-plus servers might be well-advised to look at the costs and benefits of using Pensando DSCs in their data centres.