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Fungible Ups Data-Center Efficiency

August 25, 2020

Author: Bob Wheeler

After raising more than $300 million before shipping its first product, Fungible has revealed its grand vision for data-center disaggregation. At Hot Chips, the startup disclosed its F1 data-processing unit (DPU), which it will principally sell in unannounced system-level products. The DPU is a means to a far more audacious end: Fungible seeks to enable composable infrastructure that comprises general-purpose compute servers, GPU servers, and storage servers. It believes that for disaggregation to work, however, a new network protocol is necessary; thus, it created the Fabric Control Protocol (FCP) running on a DPU in every end node, forming what it brands as TrueFabric.

Externally, the F1 appears similar to Broadcom’s Stingray and Nvidia’s BlueField-2, only with greater I/O bandwidth. Internally, however, it adopts a highly programmable data plane. Overall, it includes 52 CPU cores, dozens of hardware accelerators, 800Gbps of network bandwidth, and 512Gbps of PCI Express bandwidth. Although the F1 is principally designed for storage systems, the derivative S1 handles server connectivity. The DPU architecture is therefore flexible enough to serve in system- and I/O-processor roles. Fungible says it has qualified both chips for production.

Like Fungible, Mellanox heralded its BlueField-2 as a new class of processor. Mellanox called the chip an I/O processing unit (IPU), but Nvidia quickly switched to describing it as a DPU after acquiring the company. Fungible’s DPU, however, differs significantly from Nvidia’s processor by using a highly programmable data path. The companies’ business models differ too, with Fungible delivering turnkey code for advanced services.

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