VMware’s SmartNIC plan lands with vSphere 8 • The Register

Explore VMware VMware has delivered on its promise to bring its flagship vSphere compute virtualization suite to SmartNICs, which embed a small computer in a network interface controller and run network-centric workloads there, freeing server CPUs from scutwork.

At this week’s VMware Explore conference in San Francisco, VMware will detail how vSphere 8 will include a cut for SmartNICs and, by extension, Arm CPU architecture, because two of the SmartNIC vendors that VMware is working with – Nvidia and Pensando – use the British company’s design cores embedded in their hardware. Intel is VMware’s third SmartNIC partner.

However, VMware has not offered an update for the planned porting of the ESXi hypervisor to the ARM architecture currently available unsupported experiment. However, the virtualization giant has officially announced that its Edge stack – which was updated to version 2.0 at the conference – will be ported to platforms other than x86.

Also in the margin, VMware shows private mobile networks as a service, an interesting proposition since applications can run on the necessary infrastructure. Users and workloads can therefore enjoy physical proximity on campus and in locations such as factories. These workloads could run VMs or containers and of course be managed by a vAdmin located anywhere with appropriate connectivity.

vSphere 8 also adds a cloud consumption interface service – a single API that vAdmins can use to manage compute, network, and storage across any combination of private and public clouds. vSAN has also reached version 8, adding an “Express Storage Architecture,” which VMware says significantly improves storage efficiency and reduces CPU load.

Speaking of CPUs taking a vacation, VMware has claimed that SmartNICs for working with vSphere 8 can mean freeing up to 20 percent of CPU cores to run applications. The company also claims that SmartNICs will simplify networks and computing facilities while improving security.

VMware argues that services such as firewalls and load balancers are now technology silos of discrete physical appliances that reside in a network’s DMZ, allowing malicious traffic plenty of room to travel.

SmartNICs mean each server-to-server connection can have dedicated security tools. VMware will therefore promote SmartNIC as an offering for better security and an opportunity to rethink network architectures. And since all of these firewalls and load balancers run as VMs, VMware is proposing that vAdmins can become the single point of contact for compute, network, and security requests — freeing organizations from having to ask network or security teams to make a change.

Similarly, the company announced Project Trinidad, an API security and analytics offering that detects anomalous behavior in east-west traffic between microservices. Project Watch does similar things for app-to-app communications across clouds, and Project Northstar allows the NSX network virtualization suite to create and manage virtual networks that span multiple clouds.

These efforts add up to an attempt to enable organizations to apply a single network and security model to all the clouds they use. If VMware can pull this off, it will mean the inevitable emergence of multi-cloud computing — as a result of a conscious choice to use the best parts of different clouds, or caused by business units turning to cloud services without full IT oversight. Log Department or Knowledge – can be tamed in a way that makes silos less likely. VMware will also ensure that its products enable multicloud with known and proven patterns, rather than constantly reinventing security, identity and networks.

Sing a song of observability

One of the key announcements at the event — in terms of changes to the VMware portfolio — is “Aria,” a SaaSy observability management and automation tool that will eventually replace current Cloud Health, vRealize, and Tanzu Observability products.

Users of these products are granted Aria licenses equivalent to those they currently own.

Aria can recommend optimal cloud rigs for applications, both in terms of infrastructure required and cost, and then design and manage migrations. The tool can do similar things for security regimes. The suite also offers observability tools that can identify where a multi-cloud app is having trouble.

We’ll try to figure out how much of this is new and how much is new to the market as VMware Explore continues.

Honey, I shrunk the SDDC

One of the barriers to VMware’s adoption in hyperscale clouds has been cost: VMware’s various cloud partners essentially sell dedicated hosts for running VMware software, an arrangement that means some of the benefits of IaaS are harder to realize are.

Two initiatives address this problem.

One is called “Cloud Flex Compute” and allows users to put CPU and memory pools in the cloud to run VMware’s compute virtualization products. Execs said this will allow users to start with VMware in the cloud at a lower cost and then expand and scale the pools.

Oracle Cloud, on the other hand, will allow customers to run in the cloud on a single host.

Do any of these Matter?

VMware Aria seems to be the most interesting of this year’s announcements, as Virtzilla’s management offerings have generally been more adequate than strong. Merging them under a new brand and hopefully integrating them well could turn the tide.

VMware has repeatedly attempted to reinvent security and networking, and its efforts have been appreciated by customers, but the networking industry has largely implemented software-defined networking without being unsettled or disrupted by VMware.

SmartNICs are an area where VMware is undoubtedly a leader, making a technology currently used primarily by hyperscalers more mainstream.

Gartner VP Analyst Andrew Lerner said The registry that the SmartNIC “is still in its infancy, with less than 500 customers”.

He predicted that many will “first be deployed to support latency-sensitive or bandwidth-intensive workloads like AI/ML training and advanced analytics. This will allow I&O teams to become familiar with operational challenges.”

“Examples of disruptive and interesting value this could provide in the enterprise include elimination of the middle box (like load balancers and firewall appliances), acceleration of throughput and latency sensitive applications (NVMe, AI/ML training), scale -out memory, and removal from sheet to sheet/spine.”

That’s almost exactly what VMware says they’re used for – maybe VMware has something on the track here and has a better chance of improving security.

But Lerner has a darker view of VMware’s container-centric Tanzu portfolio.

“We’re seeing some interest, but it’s very early and limited,” Lerner said. “And of course the 800-pound gorilla is Broadcom at the moment. We see that customers are reluctant to make large investments in newer technologies given the uncertainty in the meantime.”

Broadcom did not evaluate a single mention in the pre-event briefings provided The registrydespite it and VMware released last week Submissions driving the takeover transaction. ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/08/30/vmware_explore_news_roundup/ VMware’s SmartNIC plan lands with vSphere 8 • The Register

Laura Coffey

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