Pensando gets DPU flying with vSphere 8

Data Processing Unit (DPU) chip developer Pensando was bought by AMD in April for $1.9 billion. We talked briefly with Chris Ratcliffe, who was head of marketing at Pensando and is now Networking Solutions Group Marketing Lead at AMD, to get a picture of what’s happening.

How has life at Pensando been since the AMD acquisition?

Chris Ratcliffe, Pensando and AMD
Chris Ratcliffe

Things have been very busy for us since the acquisition and overall business is booming.  We have well over 150,000 units in production with customers today – including Oracle Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud.

The relationship with VMware continues to be very strong and from the perspective of Project Monterey/vSphere 8.0 we feel we’re in a great position.

How does Pensando fit in with vSphere 8 and its Distributed Services Engine?

We believe we’re the obvious platform of choice for vSphere 8. As one of three DPU vendors chosen by VMware for Project Monterey, AMD is the only vendor with supported solutions from both Monterey launch server partners, Dell and HPE (see bootnote below).

We offer more flexibility than any other vendor. AMD is the only vendor at launch with 10/25Gbit/E and 100Gbit/E systems in the market. At this point, we’re really the only proven DPU platform – AMD Pensando already has more than 150,000 units deployed in production with hyperscalers, public clouds and enterprise customers

Have you tried out the vSphere 8/Pensando DPU combination with customers?

We’re already engaged with a broad cross section of VMware customers. As we progress through testing with them we hope to be able to set up some interviews. I have a couple of comments I can share from a recent Customer Advisory Board meeting we held in Milpitas.

Pensando DPU

A managed services company said: “As one of the world’s leading managed cloud hosting companies, we help our customers focus on their business while we handle everything else. The ability to offload core infrastructure services and isolate customer workloads using the AMD Pensando DPU is a game changer for our VMware deployments.”

A business and cloud applications company said: “Our SaaS offering is the very definition of a modern infrastructure platform. It allows our customers to develop and deploy applications across clouds and on premise. Those customers expect the same performance, scale, and reliability from us that they get from their traditional cloud providers. The ability to run our VMware environments the same way we run our cloud is a huge benefit to us. We are particularly pleased to see AMD partnering with multiple server companies on delivering factory supported solutions that will further simplify our deployment processes”.

What stands out from a technical perspective for you?

Several things. First there is independence and feature velocity. Our programmable DPU allows VMware to innovate continuously with quicker time to market and minimal impact to existing deployments, allowing them to have a fast response to customer issues.

There is better performance through device emulation (UPT with VMXnet3 emulation, bypass hypervisor); a native datapath for IO packets/messages with no need for ARM/CPU processing; and high performance NVMe/TCP without burning ARM cores.

The programmable processor means many operations can be handled in P4 without falling back to software on ARM cores. There is more compute power; our DPU has a greater number of ARM cores than other available DPUs providing the ability to address future use cases, deliver improved scale and improved API performance.

The Pensando DPU has native integration. It’s available from the factory with the top server OEMs: Dell’s VxRail HCI DPU-powered system and PowerEdge servers, and HPE’s ProLiant. That means we’re good for a diverse set of enterprise and CSP/SP workloads.


P4 (Programming Protocol-independent Packet Processors) is an open source, domain-specific programming language for network device. Pensando’s DSC (Distributed Services Card) has Arm cores alongside its Capri-branded programmable P4 processor and supports PCIe 3 and 4.

VMware’s Project Monterey DPU partners are Intel, Nvidia (BlueField-2), and Pensando.