August 11, 2021—

Make The Smarter Choice With The Pensando Project Monterey Early Access Program

By: Christopher Ratcliffe

  • Last year at VMworld® 2020, Pensando announced that we are collaborating with VMware, Inc. on Project Monterey, co-developing a platform to support the shifting requirements of next-generation applications.  We’ve made a lot of progress since then, and with the announcement of the Project Monterey Early Access Program, now is a great time to get up to speed before our sessions at VMworld in October.If you’re already caught up and just want to register for our Project Monterey Early Access Program just click here.

    What is Project Monterey?

    Project Monterey is the new vision for VMware Cloud Foundation, re-imagined to support the rapidly evolving requirements of next-gen applications.  As application requirements for compute continue to grow, Project Monterey takes advantage of data processing units (DPUs) like the Pensando Distributed Services Card to offload the main server, freeing up precious CPU cycles and bringing key services such as networking and security closer to where applications actually run and operate on data.

    This is essential to address the needs of new application types such as those found in cloud native, multi-cloud, telco, 5G, machine learning, data-centric, and hybrid environments and is modeled on the architectures implemented by the leading hyperscalers today.

    How Does Project Monterey Work?

    Project Monterey will leverage this new breed of processor known as DPUs to deliver maximum performance, zero-trust security, and simplified operations to VCF deployments in virtualized, containerized and bare-metal environments.  These platforms are typically delivered as PCIe standup devices and are installed in place of the standard network card, at the interface between the server and the network (DPUs are sometimes referred to as Function Accelerator Cards (FACs)  and are functionally similar to Project Nitro in AWS).

    Why Should I Consider Pensando For My Project Monterey Evaluation?

    The Pensando Distributed Services Platform, based on Pensando DPUs, is a natural choice for Project Monterey, offering unmatched capabilities and programmability when compared to any other offering in the space.  These unique capabilities include:

    • A generation ahead of the nearest competitor, offering class-leading capabilities and order of magnitude improvements in scale, latency and jitter with a low power profile (20W @ 25G, ~30W at 100G).  The Pensando platform is capable of applying services to up to tens of millions packets per second, with a scale of millions of routes and ACLs, while maintaining latency and jitter measured in microseconds.
    • Zero trust security – As security risks continue to proliferate, security policies can be distributed broadly yet enforced locally at wire rate by the Pensando platform, providing zero trust security at wire rate performance.
    • The Pensando HardGAP feature assures that even if the x86 host is somehow compromised, the DPU continues to protect it from bad actors and enforce compliant network security and associated policies.
    • Available today, directly from leading server providers like HPE and Dell, certified by VMware.  The Pensando Distributed Services Platform is already broadly available with thousands of units deployed across a range of cloud, enterprise and SP environments. We intend to only expand the number of platforms we support.

    Make The Smarter Choice

    It’s at this point that I expect you to say “Won’t every other DPU provider say a version of the same thing?” and you’re correct, they will.  But in the immortal words of William Shakespeare “Read on MacDuff”, there are additional details and capabilities that we haven’t covered just yet. 

    Not all DPUs are created equally – and like any other broadly available technology e.g. cars, planes, refrigerators, etc. just because they look the same on the outside, doesn’t mean they are the same on the inside.

    • The Pensando Platform is Fully Programmable –  Rather than being based solely on a sea of Arm cores or a power-hungry FPGA, we leverage a custom Pensando ASIC optimized for the P4 programming language.  Feature delivery/iterative development can be accelerated leveraging the Pensando P4 match processing units (MPUs) and subsequently delivered in hardware without taking a performance hit.  This allows us to rapidly develop new capabilities that are highly performant and scalable at very low power usage; for example, if there are changes to the VMware protocols, or anything else for that matter, we can rapidly deliver a software update that will incorporate the new capabilities and runs with the performance of hardware.  (The Pensando platform also includes Arm cores. However,  we only use those cores to run the management plane; data goes exclusively through the P4 MPUs, to yield the best performance and flexibility.)
    • Full Programmability=Performance AND Scale – Working with our cloud customers we have validated the performance benefits of the P4 architecture: we are seeing 4X to 5X performance improvements when compared to Arm-based platforms.
    • Full Programmability = Pensando-Unique Capabilities – We’re working very closely with VMware to ensure we leverage the full capabilities of the hardware and software stack beyond what customers can do today.  Our unique P4 programmability means we have the ability to deliver significant value-added functionality; for example, we can give customers the ability to use VMotion with an accelerated datapath.  Today, this is an OR proposition – VMotion OR VM acceleration. The combination of Pensando and VMware brings the Power of AND – we can deliver both at the same time. And this is just the start: there are many other unique capabilities we’ll be talking about in the coming months.
    • The Power of AND – The Power of AND doesn’t stop at VMotion AND VM Acceleration, the Pensando platform has been designed with the ability to support a broad range of differentiated infrastructure services—such as security + storage + network + real time telemetry—and enable them simultaneously (e.g. in-flight and at-rest encryption with visibility at line rate, telemetry, TAP network, NVMe over fabrics).  In-line, all-the-time, while providing peak performance.
    • Pensando Policy and Services Manager – The Pensando platform incorporates both an intuitive browser-based graphical interface, as well as gRPC and RESTful APIs for the management and monitoring of all device capabilities, in addition to integration with existing data center management environments and leading industry partners. The Pensando Policy and Services Manager uses an intent-based management model for seamless distribution of network configuration, encryption policies, and additional services to every Pensando DPU. In addition, it provides full lifecycle management and health monitoring for the platform and all associated security, load-balancing, encryption and network services, with pervasive visibility.

    Start Your Journey To Monterey Today

    From day one, everything we do at Pensando, from product development to go-to-market, has been focused on the success of our customers and partners.  Not only have we built a product that offers our customers a path to the future, we’ve partnered with the leading server providers to offer a vastly simplified purchasing process, making it easier than ever for businesses to transform their current infrastructure into a cloud-like environment with unprecedented functionality, performance, cost-savings, scale, and observability.

    Today, you can get started on the road to Monterey with a broad range of Pensando DPUs certified to run VMware, supported on industry-leading servers and backed by single-call hardware and software support.  You can also register for the Pensando Project Monterey Early Access Program, where you’ll have access to HPE and Dell servers configured with the Pensando Distributed Services Card running this new optimized version of ESX for Arm.

    Register For Early Access to Project Monterey

    For More Information

    Project Monterey at VMworld 2021

    Further discussion of Project Monterey and associated technologies can be viewed online at VMworld 2021, taking place October 5th-7th.


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