Enterprises and Service Providers Need To Be Discussing the Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings of Implementing a DPU

OPEX and CAPEX Savings Make Adopting DPUs Compelling

Design decisions are significantly different for enterprise and SP customers compared to two years ago. Electricity costs have increased considerably, and specific data center locations are power constrained. Increased inflation pressures CAPEX as many components will not return to pre-pandemic pricing. On top of these pressures, many enterprises expect a recession and need to reduce costs. While historically, one did not get excited at refreshing a data center to save money, advancements in compute and acceleration make a compelling case for enterprises and SPs to look at their current infrastructure and see if embracing a DPU architecture can save money. There is no downside to this investigation, and likely most customers can save OPEX and CAPEX by embracing new architectures.

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VMware and Server CPUs Align with DPU Architectures

Project Monterey is a re-architecture of how and where key VMware components will run. The new architecture will allow NSX and other parts of VMware vSphere to run on the DPU and free up X86 cores on the servers. In addition, it is an evolution in enterprise workloads and modern applications to allow them to run similarly to how they would run on an IaaS provider. This is important as future server buildouts will rely upon acceleration and offload.

At the same time, the server is rapidly moving from PCIe Gen3 to Gen4 to Gen5 and Gen6. In addition, CPU architectures from AMD and Intel continue to add more cores. AMD’s Genoa can offer up to 96 cores, and Intel’s Sapphire Rapids can offer up to 60 cores.

Saving Power

The world is in an energy crisis where many countries have seen substantial price increases in power, especially in Europe. DPU acceleration and offload can save significant power. IPsec in the DPU savings should be more than 20%. Virtualization offload can approach 30%, depending on CPU load. Finally, network offload can reach 10%. While these are just three examples, the DPU is versatile and powerful, and we expect future savings as additional use cases get offloaded, and software gets optimized around new architecture.

If a customer has 10,000+ machines, the power savings over three years should be in the $5-10M range in the United States and could be 3X that in Europe with current pricing. This is meaningful enough to explore and exceeds the typical savings in next-generation servers over the past decade.

Saving CAPEX and Reducing Server Footprint

Adopting a DPU, especially with next-generation CPUs, can help reduce the number of servers needed. Reducing servers not only reduces CAPEX but can also help in power-constrained facilities. For example, many SPs are removing racks of servers in certain facilities because there is not enough power. 

Depending on server utilization, the number of servers saved with a DPU offload should be in the 10-20% range. CAPEX cost will be a little less as the cost per server will be higher with a DPU, but customers should expect CAPEX savings in the 5-10% range. This is significant because savings can go directly into the business’s bottom line or allow an organization to complete the digitization effort more quickly.

Enterprises and SPs need to have the DPU Conversation

Enterprises and SPs need to have a conversation on their 1-3 year plans in the data center with not only their partners and vendors but with DPU vendors to explore these savings. At the same time, they should look at their early adopting peers to look at real-world savings and benchmarking. Our end-user interviews show enterprises as conservative, but the time is right. The ecosystem is ready with software and hardware to make the DPU a critical part of enterprise and SP data centers, not just something used by a few Hyperscalers.

NVIDIA Examples

We expect most DPU and server vendors to embrace TCO studies to document these cost savings. For example, we noticed on the internet that NVIDIA put out a whitepaper recently to talk about DPU power efficiency trends. The key is that all DPUs will improve efficiency on current enterprise and SP architectures, and enterprises should ask many questions to learn more.

Exciting 1H23

We hope enterprises embrace composability and build differently as we approach 2023. This type of architecture will benefit the enterprise and the supporting vendor ecosystem. The building blocks are in place, and with inflation, energy prices surging, and a changing business environment, enterprises will benefit from looking at DPUs now and not later.