Systems approach The recent one Announcements from Intel via Infrastructure Processing Units (IPUs) have prompted us to revisit the topic of the division of functions in a computer system.

As we noted in a previous article, The accidental SmartNIC, there’s at least a thirty year history of trying to decide how much to move from a general-purpose CPU to a more specialized NIC, and an equally long tussle between highly specialized offload engines and general-purpose engines.

The IPU represents just the latest in a long line of general-purpose offload engines, and we’re now seeing a pretty diverse range of options, not just from Intel, but from others like Nvidia and Pensando as well. These latter companies use the term DPU (Data Processing Unit), but the consensus seems to be that these devices address the same class of problems.

Several interesting things happen here. The…

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