As computing expanded beyond servers and computers into large, centralized data centers powered by CPUs and GPUs, the DPU emerged as the third major pillar of computing.

In this blog you will learn more about what a DPU is and how it helps to improve computing power in today’s technological landscape.

What is a DPU and why is it important?

Until recently, the CPU and the GPU were the two main components of the calculations.

The processor is the “brain” of the computer, which performs common computational tasks, while the graphics processor helps the processor with more complex tasks such as graphics and artificial intelligence.

However, as the amount of information available on a daily basis increases, computers have moved beyond servers and into large, centralized data centers, necessitating the transfer of data to the center.

This is where the DPU comes into play. DPU (Data Processing Unit) is a new programmable processor that helps move data around these data centers.

In essence, DPUs allow for more efficient storage and free up CPU to focus on processing.

The DPU unloads network and communication tasks from the CPU. It combines processing units with hardware accelerator units and a high-performance network interface to handle data-driven workloads.

This allows the DPU to make sure the right data is going to the right place in the right format quickly.

What are the main functions of a DPU?

At a high level, DPUs have three main functions: processing, networking, and acceleration. (They can also be included in SmartNIC.)

DPU is a chip system (SoC) that combines three key elements:

  1. Industry standard, high-performance, software-programmable, multi-core CPU, typically based on the Arm architecture (RISC) and closely related to other SoC components.
  2. High-performance network interface capable of analyzing, processing and efficiently transferring data at linear or network speeds to GPUs and processors.
  3. A wide range of flexible and programmable acceleration engines that unload and improve the performance of AI and machine learning, security, telecommunications and storage applications, among others.

What are the main features of a DPU?

Although there are many DPU features, the following eight seem to be the most common:

  • It has high speed network connectivity (usually multiple 100Gbps-200Gbps interfaces in this generation).
  • It has high-speed packet processing with specific acceleration and often programmable logic.
  • It has a CPU core.
  • There are memory controllers (usually DDR4, but it can also be DDR5).
  • It has accelerators (often for unloading or storing cryptocurrency).
  • There are PCIe 4.0 tapes.
  • It has security and management features.
  • It runs on its own OS, separate from the host system (usually Linux).

Last thoughts

As the amount of data we have increases, computational architectures will require assistance to support the management, relocation and analysis of this information.

With the help of DPU, workloads are divided between processors to improve communication in data centers, AI, storage and networking.

By freeing up the CPU, the speed at which data is processed becomes incomparable, avoiding congestion and ensuring the provision of useful information in real time.

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