VAST Data gets props from Nvidia for offloading energy-burning servers

Nvidia has given VAST Data an unexpected lift by publishing a report showing customers using its Bluefield server-offloading DPU in large enough numbers need fewer servers. VAST’s Ceres storage box has a Bluefield front end and fits right in with Bluefield server adopters.

The Nvidia DPU Power Efficiency report says that reducing the number of servers in a datacenter can help the operator use less electricity to power and cool their server estate.

The report says: “In typical servers, virtualization, networking, storage, security, management, and provisioning are all handled by VMs, containers, or agents running on the server’s main CPUs. Not only does this consume up to 30 percent of the processor cycles, but a CPU is not efficient in running these types of infrastructure workloads.”

A DPU is a domain-specific accelerator, like a GPU, that “frees up server CPU cores to run the types of applications they do best.” The Bluefield DPU (Data Processing Unit) uses specialized hardware to run infrastructure-specific operations, such as data encryption/decryption, key management, etc. to do with storage and networking, more efficiently than a server’s general purpose x86 CPU. Also “DPU cores can perform SDN, telemetry, deep packet inspection, or other networking tasks more efficiently than the server CPU.”

The report has various spreadsheet type cost examples supporting its point, with a final total cost of ownership (TCO) calculation based on having a 10,000 server datacenter offload IPsec encryption/decryption to BlueField DPUs. The three-year TCO for these 10,000 servers without BlueField are $148 million. Adding BlueField to the mix enables the operator to get rid of 1,800 servers and reduce the three-year TCO to $121.7 million – a $26.6 million, 17.8 percent saving, as a table in the report shows:

The report concludes that: “In a world facing rising energy costs and increasing demand for green IT infrastructure, the use of DPUs will become increasingly popular to reduce TCO by decreasing both CapEx and OpEx in the datacenter.”

Nvidia obviously has a vested interest here: it sells BlueField DPUs. But then so does Intel, the x86 server CPU king, calling them IPUs (Infrastructure Processing Units), as does x86 pretender AMD, with its Pensando acquisition.

VAST Data sells its scale-out all-flash storage in Ceres-branded enclosures. These are 1RU in size and hold up to 22x E1.L 9.5mm Solidigm D5-P5316 drives, using 144-layer 3D NAND and a PCIe 4.0 interface, in 15.36 or 30.72TB capacities. VAST says Ceres makes it “possible to build highly available flash storage enclosures without the need for power-hungry x86 processors.” That’s right on message as far as Nvidia is concerned.

We envisage VAST taking this Nvidia report and working up its own BlueField-enhanced storage TCO saving spreadsheets.

Filers that use x86 controllers are at a disadvantage here. But flash JBODs, such as Kioxia’s KumoScale, can more easily add front-end BlueField access and play in the same general server-offload arena as VAST Data.