29 May, 2022


Networks & Internet Solutions

DPU (Data Processing Unit) – based SmartNIC

data processing unit

The popularity of the DPU (data processing unit) is rapidly increasing nowadays. However, do you know how to decide whether your organization requires a data processing unit in your data center or understand its use cases? Meanwhile, people also talking about SmartNIC based on data processing, what the relationship between DPU and SmartNiC? In this article, we will reveal the answer.

With the rapid development of cloud network, artificial intelligence, big data, 5G edge computing, data traffic is growing exponentially.

The growth of CPU computing power couldn’t catch up with the growth of network transmission rate, the demand for specialized computing on the network side is highly increasing, thus the data processing unit is born to offload various features like virtual network, security, storage, etc.

Offloading services that are not suitable for CPU but processing through DPU( SmartNIC ) is to meet acceleration requirements of the data plane forwarding and reduce the burden of CPU computing power.

data processing unit

In fact, the essence of data processing unit offloading acceleration is heterogeneous computing which is facing challenges in following aspects:

Question 1 : Why we need DPU?

gpu fpga dsa
  • The accelerating part accounts for a limited proportion. For example, if the accelerating proportion is 80%, the acceleration no more than 5 times max.
  • Data moving back and forth between the CPU and the accelerators, resulting in an extra consumption in acceleration rates.
  • CPU+xPU architecture—CPU as the center, the entire IO path is too long, and IO becomes the bottleneck of performance.
data processing unit

So here Comes DPU (Data Processing Unit)

DPU is a new class of programmable processor, it provides a computing engine for high bandwidth, low latency, and data-intensive computing scenarios, with CPUs and GPUs as one of the three pillars of computing.

The data processing unit being specialized to operate efficiently on networking packets, storage requests or analytics requests while the CPU is not good at, meanwhile considering the needs of transmission and computing, responsible for traffic scheduling, I/O acceleration, etc.


DPU is essentially a computing engine, can be designed to a SmartNIC or standalone network appliance.

With the born of DPUs, the data center network extends inside the host, data processing unit realizes traffic scheduling, I/O routing, and acceleration, thus becoming a TRUE fabric endpoint.

data processing unit

Remember True Fabric of Fungible? That’s it!

truefabric of fungible

True Fabric of Fungible

Question 2: What are the characteristics of a data processing unit?

DPUs need the following key features:

dpu characteristics

Question3: What’s the relations between DPU and SmartNIC?

Just like what we have mentioned above: data processing unit can be designed to be a SmartNIC which is a DPU -based SmartNiC

First, let us know what the NIC card is.
NIC stands for network interface card. In fact, NIC is a PCIe card inserted into a server or storage box to connect to Ethernet network.
A DPU-based SmartNIC goes far beyond simple connectivity ,it is able to handle with complex network traffic processing, which actually should be executed by the CPU in the case of the basic NIC.
A SmartNIC can be based on ASIC, FPGA or, or system-on-a-chip-based (or SoC)

DPU-based SmartNIC

The DPU-based network interface card (SmartNIC ) can offload the processing tasks that CPU usually handles. Using its own onboard processor, the DPU-based SmartNIC can supports network function accelerations such as VTEP, OVS offload, TCP offload, GRE/GTP tunnel encapsulation and decapsulation, reliable UDP,etc.

Security function accelerations such as IPSec, SSL, XDP/eBPF, vFW/vLB/vNAT, DPI, and DDoS defense,etc.
Storage function accelerations such as NVMe-oF (TCP) and data compression/decompression,etc.

Overall, DPU-based SmartNICs can also deployed on network, security, storage. which are well suited for telco, cybersecurity, software-defined storage, machine learning, and hyperconverged infrastructure servers, not just web servers.

So, Let’s see a SmartNIC characters based on Marvel SOC


(Take Asterfusion’s SOC-based SmartNIC characters display as an example)

Is it a perfect match for DPU’s rich character? If it’s not enough, look at our DPU architecture.

dpu architecture

DPU architecture

Meanwhile, standard Linux operating system with DPDK VPP software packages will be provided to help users develop their own applications with SmartNIC.

dpu architecture

Last question: What’s application scenarios SmartNiC?

SR-IOV /vhost-user
TCP Offload
Tunnel encapsulation/unencapsulation 5G UPF offload
Compression & decompression
NVMe Initiator

If you need it in your network, please do not hesitate. Contact https://cloudswit.ch/