Kalray K200-LP DPU with Coolidge MPPA3-80 DPU chip at FMS 2022

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Kalray K200-LP DPU cover

At FMS 2022 we saw a new DPU. At FMS 2022 there were actually two products claiming to be DPU, Kalray’s option was one while the other company showing a DPU showed a fake DPU. That’s why we wanted to show Kalray’s DPU solution and why we classify it as a DPU even though it uses something very different than the others on the market.

Kalray K200-LP DPU with Coolidge MPPA3-80 DPU chip at FMS 2022

Most of us will see the Kalray K200-LP DPU in the -LP or low-profile PCIe Gen4 x16 card.

Kalray K200 LP DPU front
Kalray K200 LP DPU front

The Kalray MPPA3-80 DPU chip is on board. We’re told that this chip runs two versions of Linux simultaneously to provide DPU functionality, and that’s quite another matter.

Kalray K200 LP DPU cover
Kalray K200-LP DPU cover

Here’s a back side of the card where we can see more save packs.

Kalray K200 LP DPU Rear
Kalray K200 LP DPU Rear

Here are the two QSFP28 100GbE ports.

Kalray K200 LP DPU QSFP28 ports
Kalray K200 LP DPU QSFP28 ports

The Kalray MPPA3-80 DPU is interesting because it doesn’t use Arm, MIPS, or x86. Instead, it uses the proprietary Coolidge cores and has 80 of them on the chip. The cores are surrounded by caches, accelerators, and other devices. Each chip consists of five clusters with 16 cores. Kalray has one of these 16 core clusters that runs the management function of the card in its own Linux environment. The company told us at the time that it ran a different Linux environment for applications on the other 64 cores. Since these are not mainline cores, the Linux distribution is compiled specifically for the Kalray cores.

Kalray MPPA3 80 DPU Overview
Kalray MPPA3 80 DPU Overview

This is interesting because we’ve typically only seen ARM, MIPS, and x86 solutions in this space. Kalray has something different, so we wanted to run it through our DPU framework defined in What is a DPU? A data processing unit Quick Primer.

  • High-speed network connectivity (typically multiple 100-200 Gbps interfaces in this generation) – 2x 100GbE on the K200-LP.
  • High-speed packet processing with specific acceleration and often programmable logic (P4/P4-like is common) – This has been left to the cores but seems less of a focus for Kalray as it focuses on storage.
  • A CPU core complex (often ARM or MIPS based in this generation) – This is Coolidge’s core cluster with 80 cores
  • Memory controller (usually DDR4, but we also see HBM and DDR5 support) – The K200-LP has DDR4-3200 support and we can see the memory on the card
  • Accelerators (common for crypto or memory swapping) – Each cluster has these on the MPPA3-80.
  • PCIe Gen4 lanes (run as either root or endpoints) – There is a x16 interface on the chip and the card
  • Security and management functions (using the example of a hardware root of trust) – This is not the focus on the map, but it provides the second environment for infrastructure management, so here we give it a pass.
  • Runs its own operating system separate from a host system (usually Linux, but the theme of VMware Project Monterey ESXi on Arm as another example) – Here we have confirmed that the card is running two Linux operating systems.

This appears to be a memory-centric DPU, so like the Fungible solution, it seems more geared toward providing a memory alternative to a traditional CPU-based system. Less attention is paid to creating an infrastructure-wide solution. Still, we’ll be including this in our DPU coverage going forward as it’s close to what we would call a DPU.

Kalray DPU solutions

The company also showed storage solutions based on its DPU. One of these was the Kalray Flashbox, which we believe is made by Viking.

Kalray K200 LP DPUs in Viking Flashbox
Kalray K200 LP DPUs in Flashbox

This is operated by two nodes, each with four Kalray KP200-LP DPUs.

Kalray K200 LP DPU X4 in Viking Flashbox
Kalray K200 LP DPU X4 in Viking Flashbox

On the back of the box we can see that there are two of these four DPU controller nodes. In this picture, one of the nodes only had three DPUs.

Kalray K200 LP DPU Flashbox Rear
Kalray K200 LP DPU Flashbox Rear

On the hardware side, Kalray has its software, which is based on SPDK and is run and accelerated by the DPUs.

Kalray K200 LP DPU In Flashbox memory interface
Kalray K200 LP DPU In Flashbox memory interface

The other solution came from Pixitmedia and was that company’s PixStor box.

Kalray K200 LP DPU PixStor box
Kalray K200 LP DPU PixStor box

PixStor uses DPUs in the company’s NVMe tier to add higher-speed storage to the overall solution.

Kalray K200 LP DPU PixMedia architecture
Kalray K200 LP DPU PixMedia architecture

While Fungible has been more focused on selling its own solution, Kalray seems to be considering more OEM opportunities as well.

last words

This is one of those really interesting solutions because it doesn’t use an ARM or x86 CPU. On the one hand, for the purpose of pure storage, it may make sense to use the Kalray DPU with something else. It’s great to see different types of technology on the market.

Kalray K200 LP DPU cover
Kalray K200-LP DPU cover

At the same time, we also see the benefit of using Arm or something more general purpose for a DPU that’s easier to maintain and expand in the future. For flexibility, we looked at the FPGA plus Intel Xeon D IPU used by JD.com in This Changes Networking Intel IPU Hands-on with Big Spring Canyon. We also tried out serverless ZFS hands-on using the NVIDIA BlueField-2 DPU:

It will be interesting to see how Kalray performs on the market with its completely different DPU.

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