AMD’s New Pensando DPU Cuts Power

Less than two years after acquiring Pensando, AMD is readying the new Giglio DPU that tweaks the earlier Elba design to raise performance and reduce power.
Joseph Byrne
Joseph Byrne

AMD’s new Pensando DPU raises the performance and lowers the power of its predecessor while preserving its I/O configuration. Code-named Giglio (pronounced “jee-lyoh”), the chip refines the earlier Elba’s data plane and increases on-chip memory but shares its architecture, enabling customers to run the same code on either chip.

In a nutshell, a DPU is a processor capable of powering a smart network interface card (NIC). It’s programmable, has at least one Ethernet port, and has a high-bandwidth PCIe interface. Acquired by AMD in 2022, Pensando was started by a well-regarded ex Cisco team. The operation is one of the few merchant DPU suppliers left standing and runs parallel to AMD’s FPGA business, which also targets the DPU market.

In addition to smart NICs, Giglio targets data-center equipment such as Ethernet switches with enhanced packet-processing capabilities and emerging disaggregated-NIC systems. Entering production by the end of the year, Giglio’s primary interfaces are a pair of 200 GbE ports (configured alternatively as a 100 GbE quartet) and 16 PCIe Gen4 lanes. Two DDR5 interfaces connect external memory. Inside, the DPU has a cluster of Arm Cortex-A72 CPUs and a set of packet engines customers can program or use with AMD-supplied software. The DPU includes crypto hardware to accelerate IPSec along with compression and CRC engines for storage applications.

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