Nvidia, Dell, VMware add AI, zero-trust security into new data center package

Dell servers containing Nvidia DPUs, GPUs, and VMware vSphere 8 use multiple firewalls to improve security for cloud-based workloads.
Written by Chris Preimesberger, Contributor
visualization of a data center

Two of the world's top tech companies in their separate sectors, VMware in enterprise software and Nvidia in high-end data processing hardware, are joining their collective talents with the idea of bringing conventional data centers into the coming metaverse era. They plan to do this by installing artificial intelligence and zero-trust security on servers from the get-go.

The two companies announced today, at the VMware Explore 2022 conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, a new data center platform they claim is designed for the era of AI, making standard a list of disparate functions -- state-of-the-art AI modeling, AI inference, data science, and zero-trust security capabilities -- in servers globally.

The package combines Dell's latest PowerEdge servers with Nvidia BlueField-2 data processing units (DPUs), GPUs, and AI enterprise software, all optimized for VMware's new vSphere 8 enterprise workload platform, which also was introduced at the Aug. 30 event. Enterprises can organize and distribute the functions of these elements on Nvidia LaunchPad. This hands-on lab platform provides access and control for hardware and software to create end-to-end AI workflows for data scientists, the companies said.

Also: Nvidia's Omniverse: The metaverse is a network, not a destination

Security is Job No. 1

Improved security for next-generation workloads using multiple firewalls is the primary force behind this partnership project.

"With this package, we are protecting workloads with next-generation firewalls," Brad Doctor, VMware's vice president of security engineering, told reporters. "Now you will see firewalls in every single server. So we are no longer confined to how previous data centers were built. 

"With that [conventional] model, you have an edge router or firewall sitting at the perimeter of the data center. All the traffic that was inside the data center was assumed to be trusted. Here we're going to a model where we're going to put a next-generation firewall with [VMware's] NSX into every server rather than running that on a CPU, which is going to offload this to the GPU. So with that, we can do things like intrusion detection and intrusion protection systems."

Also: CISA: Prepare now for quantum computing cyber threats

The security system can be as granular as recognizing immediately when a potential intruder is typing a password too slowly when trying to gain illicit access to a server, Doctor said.

Isolation of data is the key

"Isolation is super important in all this -- it's the best security in the world," Manuvir Das, head of Enterprise Computing at Nvidia, said. "Security has always been a focus of the VMware NSX platform, and now hosting that on the Bluefield [DPUs] gives us a new layer of isolation between the application processing domain and the infrastructure processing domain."

Running on the Bluefield DPUs, vSphere 8 speeds up workload production in a substantial way, Doctor said. By offloading data to the DPU, users can accelerate networking and security services while saving CPU cycles, he said.

Distributed applications with AI/ML and analytics are moving the transformation of data center architecture forward by making use of accelerators and providing better security as part of the mainstream application infrastructure, Krish Prasad, senior vice president and general manager of VMware Cloud Platform Business, said in a statement. 

"Dell PowerEdge servers built on the latest VMware vSphere 8 innovations and accelerated by BlueField-2 DPUs provide next-generation performance and efficiency for enterprise cloud applications while better protecting enterprises from lateral threats across multi-cloud environments," Prasad said.

Nvidia AI Enterprise, a cloud-native suite of AI and data analytics software, is optimized to enable organizations to use AI on familiar infrastructure. It is certified to deploy anywhere -- from the enterprise data center to the public cloud -- and includes global enterprise support to keep AI projects on track, Das said.

Dell servers with vSphere 8 on BlueField-2 DPUs will be available later this year, Doctor said. Nvidia AI Enterprise with vSphere is available now and can be deployed using LaunchPad hands-on labs.

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