GigaOM takes notice of DPUs

Data Processing Units (DPUs) help organisations build denser, faster, more efficient and cost-effective IT infrastructures, with the goal of providing an overall lower total cost of ownership.

This is the thrust of a GigaOm Sonar report, written by analyst Enrico Signoretti, looking at early-stage emerging technologies. DPUs are hardware accelerators, usually installed on commodity x86 servers, to offload specialised compute tasks such as security, storage and networking. They can be implemented as ASICs, FPGAs or proprietary Systems-on-Chip (SOCs) using Arm or specially-developed processors.

The Sonar report evaluates suppliers’ products looking at their performance, programmability, power efficiency, longevity and cost. It also checks key characteristics needed for enterprise adoption: architecture, drivers, APIs, ecosystem, management and support.

The included suppliers are Fungible, Intel, Kalray, Marvell, Nvidia, Pensando and Pliops. They are placed in a triangular 2D area to represent their relative positions as Challengers or Leaders. The three axes defining the space are technology, strategy and roadmap. The three axes start at the same central point (signifying a higher score) and then move outwards.

Here is the report’s Sonar diagram: 

The orange squares are the suppliers’ starting positions, and the arrows show their direction of movement. At this early state of DPU development they are all Leaders – although Marvell is on the Leader/Challenger boundary – and all located in the technology-centric area of the diagram. 

Nvidia and Pensando are the overall best-positioned, with Fungible, Intel and Pliops next, followed by Kalray and Marvell.

The report contains descriptive sections for each supplier, describing their product’s characteristics, its strengths and its challenges. It advises: “The DPU is a component of the server. Look to purchase it with the server so the vendor provides warranty and support for both as part of the server maintenance plan.” That seems too be an excellent point for all but hyperscaler customers.

GigaOm’s Sonar Report for Data Processing Units (DPU) is available to GigaOm subscribers.