Microsoft boosts Azure networking, storage with composable infra grab

Slurps ‘Fungible’, a manufacturer of DPUs and fabrics that will join Redmond’s engineering gang

Microsoft has announced the acquisition of composable infrastructure and digital processing unit (DPU, aka SmartNIC) vendor Fungible.

The acquisition – as spotted by our sister site Blocks and Files – looks to be aimed at giving Microsoft’s Azure cloud a technology and talent upgrade, as the announcement is penned by Girish Bablani, corporate veep for Azure Core who wrote “The Fungible team will join Microsoft’s datacenter infrastructure engineering teams and will focus on delivering multiple DPU solutions, network innovation and hardware systems advancements,” states Microsoft’s announcement.

“Today’s announcement further signals Microsoft’s commitment to long-term differentiated investments in our datacenter infrastructure,” the announcement adds, before going on to explain the acquisition “enhances our broad range of technologies and offerings including offloading, improving latency, increasing datacenter server density, optimizing energy efficiency and reducing costs.”

As Blocks and Files has reported, Fungible’s hardware and software work to “dynamically compose optimised and working server configurations from pools of CPU+DRAM, GPUs.“ The company later started to dabble in computational storage.

Microsoft already uses DPUs in Azure. And Fungible has plenty of competition in the field - Nvidia, Broadcom, AMD. and Intel are all players.

While Fungible’s wares are well-regarded, going up against the aforementioned quartet would be very hard for a small company. And while Fungible’s storage hardware has made it onto VMware’s hardware compatibility list, its DPUs have not – an omission we mention as vSphere 8 is currently the only mainstream enterprise software that employs the accelerators.

An acquisition therefore looks a fine exit for Fungible, and Microsoft a welcoming and likely long-term home for its tech.

Rival DPU-makers may be less happy with the deal, as if Microsoft has chosen to develop its own tech rather than buy off-the-shelf kit that’s one very, very, large customer that Intel, AMD, Nvidia and Broadcom won’t be getting.

The four DPU-makers already struggle to sell to AWS, which has home-grown its own “Nitro” DPUs. Alibaba Cloud appears to have also created its own SmartNIC.

Perhaps acquiring Fungible is a sign that Microsoft also wants to create its own DPUs tuned to its own needs.

There’s no word on when Fungible tech will make it into Microsoft’s datacentres. Indeed, it would not surprise if Microsoft never reveals just what it will do with Fungible’s tech. But if a year or three from now Azure starts to promote new networking or storage features, or improved efficiency in either field, The Register reckons Fungible could well be behind those offerings.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. ®

 

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