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Hands-on Access to VMware vSphere on NVIDIA BlueField DPUs with NVIDIA LaunchPad

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Two years ago, NVIDIA and VMware announced that they would reimagine and re-architect the data center. Hundreds of engineers dedicated across each company have worked closely to bring this joint solution to fruition. 

VMware vSphere on NVIDIA BlueField DPU now available through Dell Technologies

NVIDIA announces the availability of VMware vSphere on the NVIDIA BlueField DPU, providing the ideal solution for delivering a software-defined, hardware-accelerated cloud solution. This solution is available as of December 6, 2022 through our OEM partner, Dell Technologies. VMware vSphere and the BlueField DPU will become pervasive to offload, accelerate, and isolate infrastructure workloads.

The solution combines Dell R650 and Dell R750 PowerEdge servers with NVIDIA BlueField DPUs. It is optimized for the VMware vSphere 8 enterprise workload platform, bringing zero-trust security capabilities to enterprises worldwide.  

BlueField DPU offload and acceleration can maximize server utilization, improve server power efficiency, and save $28M over 3 years for a large data center. In addition, benchmark testing for the NGINX Web Server workload, for example, has proven that offloading traffic to the DPU can achieve a reduction in CPU overhead from 8 cores with no DPU, to 0 cores when offloaded to the BlueField DPU, while achieving relatively equivalent throughput at approximately 15 Gbps. The associated efficiency enables a CPU reduction of 22% or 220 servers in a deployment of 1000 servers, with savings of $8,200/server or $1.8M in efficiency savings over 3 years with a 5x ROI.

This post describes how enterprises can experience the combination of these technologies on NVIDIA LaunchPad, a hands-on lab program that provides access to hardware and software for end-to-end workflows in AI, data science, and more.

Try vSphere 8 and DPUs with NVIDIA LaunchPad

The NVIDIA LaunchPad demo area is well-suited to highlight the benefits of DPUs in great detail, for virtualization admins and application owners. Enterprises can experience applications and libraries running on NVIDIA hardware without having to deploy that hardware in their own data centers. There are curated labs that walk you through the process of onboarding the NVIDIA DPU from a clean vSphere 8 base install and running performance benchmarks.

VMware vSphere on NVIDIA BlueField DPU overview

The increasing adoption of cloud-native workloads is causing a significant shift in infrastructure architecture to support next-generation applications such as AI and big data. Infrastructure must evolve to provide composability and flexibility using virtualization, containers, or bare metal servers.

Traditional software-defined infrastructure provides flexibility but suffers from performance and scalability limitations, as up to 30% of server CPU cores may be consumed by workloads such as networking, storage, and security.

VMware saw this as an opportunity to enhance vSphere infrastructure and reengineered it to take a hardware-based, disaggregated approach. The infrastructure software stack is now tightly coupled to the hardware stack. The result is VMware vSphere Distributed Services Engine (VMware Project Monterey), which integrates closely with the NVIDIA BlueField DPU to provide an evolutionary architectural approach for data center, cloud, and edge. It addresses the changing requirements of next-gen and cloud-native workloads. 

To help organizations test the benefits of vSphere on BlueField DPUs, NVIDIA LaunchPad has curated labs with exclusive access to live demonstrations and self-paced learning. The two labs cater to different personas.  For IT admins, LaunchPad walks you through the steps to configure the Distributed Services through vSphere and NSX. The second lab enables an application developer to execute workloads and experience the performance gains due to the new vSphere on BlueField.

vSphere Distributed Services Engine

vSphere Distributed Services Engine is a software-defined and hardware-accelerated architecture for VMware’s Cloud Foundation. It provides a breakthrough solution that supports virtualization, containers, and scalable management.

VMware’s vSphere Distributed Services Engine architectural changes, re-architecting VMware’s ESXi for Multi-Cloud Environments.
Figure 1. vSphere Distributed Services Engine architecture diagram

NVIDIA BlueField

The BlueField DPU offloads, accelerates, and isolates the infrastructure workloads, allowing the server CPUs to focus on core applications and revenue-generating tasks. The integration of VMware vSphere and NVIDIA BlueField simplifies building a cloud-ready infrastructure, while providing a consistent service quality in multi-cloud environments.

VMware enables workload composability and portability that supports multi-cloud. At the same time, BlueField handles critical networking, storage, security, and management, including telemetry tasks, freeing up the CPUs to run business and tenant applications. The BlueField DPU also provides security isolation by running firewall, key management, and IDS/IPS on its Arm cores, in a separate domain from the applications.

NVIDIA LaunchPad

LaunchPad gives you access to dedicated hardware and software through a remote lab, so that IT teams can walk through the entire process of deploying and managing a vSphere on BlueField DPUs. The lab is designed to provide your IT team with deep, practical experience in a hosted environment before starting your on-premises deployment.

Background

To understand why this is important, start by looking at how modern applications have changed. Modern applications are driving many underlying hardware infrastructure requirements, including

  • Increased networking traffic that creates performance and scale challenges
  • Hardware acceleration requirements that drive significant operational complexities
  • A lack of a clear definition of the traditional data center perimeter, which intensifies the need for new security models. 

We are seeing that modern applications require more server CPU cycles. As the application requirements for compute continue to grow, increased infrastructure requirements for CPU cycles compete with application requirements.

Specialized data processing units (DPUs) have been developed to offload, accelerate and isolate CPU networking, storage, security, and management tasks. With DPUs, organizations free up server-CPU cycles for core application processing, which accelerates job completion time over a robust zero-trust data center infrastructure. 

Selected functions that used to run on the core CPU are offloaded, accelerated, and isolated on BlueField to support new possibilities, including the following:

  • Improved performance for application and infrastructure services
  • Enhanced visibility, application security, and observability
  • Isolated security capabilities
  • Enhanced data center efficiency and reduced enterprise, edge, and cloud costs

Next steps

VMware vSphere is leading the shift to advanced hybrid-cloud data center architectures, which benefit from the hypervisor and accelerated software-defined networking, security, and storage. With access to vSphere on BlueField DPU preconfigured clusters, you can explore the evolution of VMware Cloud Foundation and take advantage of the disruptive hardware capabilities of servers equipped with BlueField DPUs.

Interested organizations can register for the NVIDIA and VMware vSphere on BlueField DPU early access program. If you are already a member, you can get immediate access.

For more information about the NVIDIA and VMware collaboration, see NVIDIA & VMware: A New Partnership, A New Data Center.