At Monterey, VMware acknowledges that the IT architecture is no longer uniform and that the focus is on a CPU. In the late 1990s, Intel tried to kill graphics processor manufacturers with its Pentium MMX (MultiMedia eXtension). The CPU was powerful enough to do everything: graphics processing, music, modem … At the beginning of the 21st century, manufacturers of graphics chips resisted with real-time 3D games with breathtaking details. Until we discovered that nVidia’s chips were extremely efficient at handling complex math operations like machine learning that interested the professional world. The same phenomenon for the calculations required to secure information: where a classic processor was sufficient to encrypt / decrypt a 64-bit algorithm, new security technologies (generalized 256-bit, cryptography on an elliptical curve) have made special circuits necessary again. FPGA type.
Continuation of the following article, dissolving the cloud
However, the use of these special circuits leads to partitioning of the applications, and this is what VMware wants to solve with its Monterey project. The general idea is to automate the assignment of the calculations of an application to the corresponding processors (GPU, FPGA) without the user having to specify which processor the calculations are intended for. The first application is that of SmartNICs.
NIC circuits are not new; You unload some network functions from the CPU. The SmartNICs, of which Mellanox is a specialist and which Nvidia bought this year, go one step further, be it in terms of speed or support of functions, especially at the VxLAN level. SmartNICs integrate a minimalist Linux system for this purpose. Minimalistic, but still with firewall functions that make it possible to protect certain services.
The agreement that VMware has just signed with nVidia concerns the DPU (Data Process Unit). Coming from Mellanox, it is responsible for the entire administration of the application data, regardless of whether it is storage or transmission over the network. However, it is not intended to be used to run applications. VMware is specifically targeting the BlueField 2 DPU, which includes a 64-bit 8-core ARM processor and a 200 Gbit interface.
In practice, the Monterey project requires a redesign of VCF – VMware Cloud Foundation, namely vSphere, vSAN and NSX. In particular, this includes support for bare metal servers. “In particular, the goal is that an application can get the functionality it needs from the SmartNICs and from the available GPUs without the user having to worry about anything. Specifically, this means that there are more VMs on a single server. You speed up the servers by remotely deporting certain functions to other specialized circuits (GPU, FPGA). Most importantly, it works with bare metal servers, ”describes VMware COO Sanjay Poonen.
VMware will rely on its hyper-finder ESXi to do this, which supports bare metal. However, new APIs are also required to access various physical resources. This explains that the Monterey project will not be available for a year. With Monterey in particular, VMware is targeting the telecommunications sector and, in particular, 5G.
Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, ironically recalled that he was one of the inventors of WI-FI and that with 5G it would more or less go away. It is therefore no coincidence that VMware acquired Mode.net on September 20, 2020 with the utmost discretion and specializes in SD-WAN for cellular networks.