Developer Blog

Networking |

Accelerating Data Center Security with BlueField-2 DPU

Data Processing Units, or DPUs, are the new foundation for a comprehensive and innovative security offering. The hyperscale giants and telecom providers have adopted this strategy for building and securing highly efficient cloud data centers, and it’s now available for enterprise customers. This strategy has revolutionized the approach to minimize risks and enforce security policies inside the data center. 

A DPU is an integrated system on a chip (SOC) that combines high-performance CPU, network interface, and data center function accelerators into a single ASIC.  DPUs utilize programmable hardware to offload and accelerate inline security services at line-rate.

BlueField DPU

The NVIDIA® BlueField®-2 DPU provides the first line of defense against attacks. Internal attacks that try to infiltrate the data center are prevented through an isolated, secure boot process and secure firmware updates. Aimed at accelerating security throughout the data center, DPUs are capable of filtering packets in support of next-generation firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems. A DPU can detect, block, and protect sensitive assets and data from threats.

The design offers built-in functional isolation to protect individual workloads and provide flexible control and visibility at the server level, reducing risk, and increasing efficiency. The isolation enables software agents and applications to run securely on the DPU, irrespective of the rest of the system. 

Isolated from the host, and leveraging unique hardware capabilities, the DPU can deliver better security by reducing the attack surface and bolstering individual workload isolation—providing additional protection to reduce risks and simplify security management policies.

Furthermore, DPUs offload and accelerate cryptographic operations and offer encryption of data at rest or in motion. Freeing the host CPU to run critical applications, and being isolated from the application domain, keeps the cryptographic keys secure from a potentially compromised host.

The Changing Role of Firewall Security

The adoption of a cloud compute model calls for intelligent security solutions capable of delivering maximum performance and agility. In the age of hybrid cloud and virtualized computing, security functions have transformed. They are being deployed within every host to provide strict policy enforcement, as well as visibility into possible attacks. 

Previously, protection within the host required running a software security solution or VM appliance, which was slow and consumed CPU resources. As new technology and bandwidth requirements increase, host-based protection now requires hardware performance at line-rate.  

BlueField-2 DPU can be used as such a device to filter traffic traveling between computers. NVIDIA DPUs employ powerful hardware and software networking components that are programmable, with a configurable set of rules to inspect all traffic traversing the connection at line-rate. When combined with perimeter security solutions, a DPU can extend security to include host-based protection. 

The DPU can be used as a platform that sits at the ingress and egress points of each host, adding a new layer where it’s needed most—at the computing edge. Together, they better protect against malicious threats to company assets and resources.

Software-based firewalls also place an additional burden on the CPU, reducing available computing resources for application processing and decreasing the number of VM, applications, and services that can run on a single host. BlueField-2 DPU security platform, with a software security stack, offloads security services from the host, freeing CPU cycles for applications running on host resources.

Micro-Segmentation

The complexity of security increases with the use of computing and network virtualization technologies. Micro-segmentation is a network security technique in virtualized environments that logically divides a data center into distinct individual security segments at the workload level. At this low-level, security controls can be defined, and security services delivered for each unique segment. BlueField-2 provides a platform for hosting micro-segmentation and network connection tracking services for flow-based network analytics and application-level security for traffic inside the data center. 

The DPU can run a security software stack, leaving no impact on servers or hindering application performance. This hardware-accelerated solution includes security policies and enforcement capabilities at wire speed and is fully isolated from the application workloads themselves.

The decade-old approach of perimeter security defense has reached a tipping point of performance limitations and operational complexities. A new holistic approach to security is needed for enterprises to achieve robust protection. Enterprise data centers are evolving and following the lead of hyperscale and public cloud providers with CDI and should also adopt their similar tactics for network security. BlueField-2 can offer protection for all types of workloads against current and future threats, and can deliver the highest security, integrity, and reliability for the new hybrid cloud era.

As the cybersecurity landscape grows in complexity, security experts continue to turn to NVIDIA BlueField-2 as a platform to provide advanced security features. 

Our security experts are here to help answer questions about how BlueField-2 can augment and expand your security solution. If you’re a security architect or product manager at a cybersecurity company, contact us