Intel reveals more details about infrastructure processing unit

Intel has revealed — at the Six Five Summit — its vision for the infrastructure processing unit (IPU), a programmable networking device designed to enable cloud and communication service providers to reduce overhead and free up performance for central processing units (CPUs).
Intel for CIOs
“The IPU category of technologies is one of the strategic pillars of our cloud strategy. It expands upon our SmartNIC capabilities and is designed to address the complexity and inefficiencies in the modern data center,” Guido Appenzeller, chief technology officer, Data Platforms Group, Intel, said.

The IPU is a programmable network device that intelligently manages system-level infrastructure resources by securely accelerating those functions in a data center.

It allows cloud operators to shift to a virtualized storage and network architecture while maintaining high performance and predictability, as well as a high degree of control.

The IPU has dedicated functionality to accelerate modern applications that are built using a microservice-based architecture in the data center. Research from Google and Facebook has shown 22 percent to 80 percent of CPU cycles can be consumed by microservices communication overhead.

With the IPU, a cloud provider can securely manage infrastructure functions while enabling its customer to entirely control the functions of the CPU and system memory.

An IPU offers the ability to:

Accelerate infrastructure functions, including storage virtualization, network virtualization and security with dedicated protocol accelerators.

Free up CPU cores by shifting storage and network virtualization functions that were previously done in software on the CPU to the IPU.

Improve data center utilization by allowing for flexible workload placement.

Enable cloud service providers to customize infrastructure function deployments at the speed of software.

Intel is already the volume leader in the IPU market with our Xeon-D, FPGA and Ethernet components, said Patty Kummrow, vice president in the Data Platforms Group and general manager of Ethernet Products Group at Intel.

The first of Intel’s FPGA-based IPU platforms are deployed at multiple cloud service providers and its first ASIC IPU is under test.

Andrew Putnam, principal Hardware Engineering manager at Microsoft, said: “The use of reconfigurable SmartNICs across multiple Intel server generations enables us to free up processing cores, scale to much higher bandwidths and storage IOPS, add new capabilities after deployment, and provide predictable performance to our cloud customers.”

Intel will roll out additional FPGA-based IPU platforms and dedicated ASICs. These solutions will be enabled by a software foundation that allows customers to build leading-edge cloud orchestration software.