Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Monday, October 26, 2020
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VMware, Nvidia Partner to Bring AI Capabilities to More Enterprises 

VMworld 2020 -- In a move designed to make it easier for any enterprise to use and integrate deep AI capabilities in their business operations, VMware and Nvidia are bringing their core technologies together through new development and network partnerships.

The first initiative integrates a collection of Nvidia’s broad AI software with VMware’s vSphere, VMware Cloud Foundation and VMware Tanzu platforms to make it easier for enterprise developers to build AI capabilities into their business applications, while allowing them to use the VMware development tools they already know. The Nvidia AI software for this project comes from the Nvidia GPU-Optimized Software Hub (NGC), which provides a wide range of tools to accelerate AI research.

BlueField-2 DPU

To enable this, the companies also announced that they are developing a new “Project Monterey” architecture to provide improved AI performance using SmartNIC technology and Nvidia’s latest programmable BlueField-2 data processing units (DPUs). The new architecture will combine the VMware Cloud Foundation platform and Nvidia’s BlueField-2 DPU hardware to create a next-generation infrastructure built for AI, machine learning and other high-performance requirements. The new architecture also includes expanded application acceleration for enterprise workloads and provide additional security by offloading critical data center services from the CPU to SmartNICs and programmable DPUs, according to the companies.

The moves aim to drive AI use and integrations across a broader swath of enterprises by simplifying what can be a complex process today, the companies announced at VMware’s VMworld 2020 conference on Tuesday (Sept. 29). This year’s event is being held virtually for the first time due to the COIVID-19 pandemic.

Democratizing AI

Together, the two companies are creating a path to “democratize AI” for every business that wants to use it, Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of VMware, said in a presentation at VMworld with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang.

“That’s what we are on a mission to do together,” said Gelsinger. AI has been around as a concept for about 40 years, but now it’s burst onto the scene as a powerful tool, he added. The trick is how it can be made available for every business to use it to their advantage, he said.

To do that, it needs to be easier for developers to use, it needs to work seamlessly anywhere, from the cloud to the edge to the data center and elsewhere, and it needs to provide safe storage for the huge amounts of data it requires, he said.

The new partnerships between the companies is designed to help meet those needs, said Nvidia’s Huang.

“We’re going to bring the Nvidia AI computing platform and our AI application frameworks onto VMware,” he said. “Now, this is something that is really hard to do. VMware revolutionized datacenter computing with virtualization. However, AI is really a supercomputing type of application, it’s a scale-out, distributed, accelerated computing application.”

That means that fundamental computer science has to happen between the two companies to make this all work, said Huang.

“As a result of that, we’re going to be able to extend the environment that [developers] currently have, instead of building these siloed, separate systems,” said Huang. “They can now extend their VMware systems to be able to do data analytics, artificial intelligence training, all the way to scaling out the inference operations. AI is the most powerful technology force of our time and these computers are learning from data to write software that no humans can write. We want to put all of this capability into the hands of all of these companies so they can automate their business and products with AI.”

Bringing AI to Healthcare, Financial Services and More

The integration of Nvidia’s NGC with VMware vSphere and VMware Cloud Foundation is designed to make it easier for more companies to deploy and manage AI for their most demanding workloads, according to the companies. The services are expected to be used by a wide range of enterprises, from healthcare to financial services, retail and manufacturing, using containers and virtual machines on the same platform as their enterprise applications, at scale across the hybrid cloud.

The ability for existing VMware customers to do all this using the VMware tools they already know and use is what can really help drive the adoption of the technology, said Huang.

Karl Freund, senior analyst for machine learning and HPC for analyst firm Moor Insights & Strategy, told EnterpriseAI that these new initiatives between VMware and Nvidia “make a ton of sense.”

“That is a very smart strategy, extending beyond the open source community for Kerberos containers and into the world where enterprises are already comfortable,” said Freund. “And VMware support for Nvidia BlueField-2 adds a strong SmartNIC to the story.”

Nvidia recently announced its intentions to acquire chip IP vendor Arm in a blockbuster $40 billion deal.

 

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