For many, the DPU is associated with the Smart NIC and the boundary between computing and networking. Therefore it has a finite market size tied to the number of servers and appliances in the market. DPU history focused on offloading the processor with storage, basic security, and virtualization allowed the CPU cores on a server to be 100% utilized for workloads and not for tasks viewed as overhead.
Today the market for DPUs is very different and in the early stages of redefining many markets. Today’s DPU metrics are impressive and altering the conversation. For example, two-three years ago, it was about getting to 100% utilization and defined to a handful of use cases. Today the DPU accelerator can do more, not only offloading basic tasks but accomplishing processing that would take multiple servers to achieve in one card. This is a game-changer and becomes a building block to future data centers looking and acting differently than the current paradigm.
The DPU, and general accelerators, create new markets now and are at the forefront of several technology innovation cycles. They are not only disrupting adjacent markets with new architectures but are developing new use cases and applications. DPUs in the Telcom market was an adjacent natural market, and we highlight a set of new announcements below on several new areas the DPU is taking over:
-- NVIDIA and Palo Alto Networks (May 2021) announce high-end next-generation firewall(NGFW): Palo Alto’s firewall, running on BlueField-2, opens up the entire firewall space to the DPU market. DPUs can replace custom silicon and achieve better performance. This becomes critical as the security market transitions to Cloud and as-a-Service models.
-- NVIDIA and Marvel (MWC 2021 and 2022) announce multiple edge computing, NFV, RAN initiatives: Over the past two years, Marvell and NVIDIA have made significant strides in addressing almost the entire Telecom infrastructure hardware stack. For example, today, a Telecom SP can run RAN baseband directly on the DPU based system instead of on proprietary ASICs and hardware. In many cases, the DPU can achieve better cost, power, and performance than previous hardware versions offered by Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia.
The DPU also lays the hardware building block for Open RAN.
There are many other examples of the DPU moving beyond basic offload and compute tasks. The above examples highlight new markets for the DPU that are direct replacements of legacy products. To date, much of 2021 has highlighted Telco markets and been SP-focused. That brings us to the enterprise which has several opportunities ahead for DPUs and is more forward-looking:
-- AI/ML workloads in the enterprise: This market remains in its infancy, mostly around basic inference in a few verticals. However, all enterprises will go through a digital transformation around AI or go out of business. AI in the enterprise will be many new applications ranging from business intelligence and customer interaction to the design of new products.
-- Server architectures are changing: Server designs in the enterprise and the overall march towards disaggregated pools of computing, storage, memory, and networking resources will define the next decade. The DPU will play an essential role in this transformation, and it will occur in many parts of the new architecture.
Overall the market for DPU is poised for growth as new workloads and adjacent markets become prime use cases for the technology.
By Alan Weckel, Founder and Technology Analyst at 650 Group.
ORAN and CBRS were the main themes at Mobile World Congress Americas, held in Los Angeles. I have to say, though, that unlicensed was the third most important theme, though it will emerge to the main stage in future years.
ORAN encompasses several topics woven together. ORAN is a set of common interfaces that describe how various devices in mobile RAN work together. ORAN may also represent a new way of building radio networks. Recently, new vendors are being invited to bid on major mobile network projects, including Mavenir, Altiostar, Parallel and others. And, the major market share players in mobile RAN, which include Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and ZTE are being asked by operators to support ORAN. The incumbent vendors are responding in various ways: Samsung, a challenger in the market, has whole-heartedly embraced ORAN, while Huawei has only recently acknowledged the existence of ORAN. Ericsson and Nokia have embraced ORAN with the view to embrace and extend - in the sense that Microsoft used this term in the 1990s. Based on presentations made by Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, we expect that the incumbents, Ericsson and Nokia,will embrace ORAN but will establish a path to continue serving customers with the same vertically integrated business models of today. We are eager to see the results of mobile network operator bidding to observe how many startups win projects for wide scale deployment.
CBRS. Today, CBRS is available in the US market and has been so for about a month. We had an interesting opportunity to moderate three panels on the stage at MWCa and found some very interesting indoor/campus uses for CBRS, including WiFi backhaul, secure/critical communications, surveillance, IoT/sensor monitoring. Since CBRS indoor spectrum generally allows for more output power than for WiFi, the range is better. We see this as a key advantage for CBRS users, though enterprises who take advantage of the so-called OnGo service must pay various monthly fees such as those for the SAS and potentially other ongoing services. We expect that CBRS will be successful in certain verticals.
Unlicensed. We believe the existence of CBRS could uncork the value of unlicensed spectrum at 900 MHz, 5 GHz, 2.4 GHz, and 6 GHz. We are conducting significant research into each of these and other spectrums.