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Exploring Intel’s Infrastructure Processing Units Development with Patty Kummrow – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series, sponsored by Intel, I am joined by Patty Kummrow, Vice President Network and Edge Group, General Manager Ethernet Products Group at Intel Corporation for a conversation around Intel’s Infrastructure Processing Units development.

Exploring Intel’s IPU Development

In our conversation we discussed the following:

  • Highlights from Intel InnovatiON
  • An exploration into IPU and why Intel is excited for this new adventure
  • The drivers of IPU development and the role it plays in end-to-end network
  • Why storage innovation is so critical for our current ecosystem
  • A look into the future of IPU development and what listeners should expect next

As always it was a great conversation and one you don’t want to miss. If you want to learn more about Intel’s IPU development you can visit their website. Want to watch the video that Daniel and Patty referenced? Click here. Be sure to check out the complete episode below.

Watch my interview with Patty here:

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Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this webcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

More insights from Futurum Research:

Intel InnovatiON 2021: Let Innovation Reign 

IntelON Developer Event

Live from Intel InnovatiON: Elevate Your Cloud With Rebecca Weekly – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series


Daniel Newman: Hey everybody, welcome back to another addition of the Futurum tech webcast. I’m your host Daniel Newman, principal analyst, founding partner at Futurum Research, and I am excited to have you here, for another Futurum tech webcast interview series that took place during, and just after Intel’s most recent innovation event.

Today, I’m going to have Patty Kummrow, General Manager for the Intel Ethernet Products Group joining me, and we’re going to have a great discussion about Intel, the IPU, and what’s been going on in her business unit, along with what happened at the event, and some other questions about what’s going on, across the infrastructure space.

Now, as always right before I start my show, I do like to do the disclaimers. I’m going to get those out of the way. First and foremost, thank you to Intel for sponsoring this episode, we appreciate the partnership. Secondly, the show is for information and entertainment purposes only, and while we will be talking to and about publicly traded companies, please do not take anything we say in this show, as investment advice.

Now, without further ado, I’d like to welcome Patty to the show. Patty, welcome to the Futurum Tech webcast.

Patty Kummrow: Thanks for having me Dan, excited to be here.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s great to have you here. The innovation event was great. Had a number of wonderful conversations. If, you’re out there, I had an interview with Rebecca Weekly that you can check out, we’ll put it in the show notes. Had the chance to have some conversations with some of your senior executives. GB, gave us, a small group of us analysts, some time, along with your CEO, Pat Gelsinger, but these one-on-one discussions, are some of the favorites I have, during your events.

I’m really excited to talk to you, about what’s going on in your business unit. Now, before I hit on that, before we talk about anything in the event, Patty, I would love, since this is your first time joining the show, if you wouldn’t mind, just doing a quick introduction about yourself, your role at Intel, and what a day looks like for you, leading the Intel ethernet products group.

Patty Kummrow: Yeah sure, Dan. I’ve been at Intel, since 2005, and it’s a pretty exciting place to be right now. With Pat back on board, many of us remember him from the first time around, and we’re thrilled to have him. I like to say that the quality of the air has changed in the room.

Most of us, many of us are engineers, or have engineering backgrounds, he clearly leads with technology, and it’s just great to have back. So it’s pretty fun right now.

A day in the life for me, is busy, busy in the most exciting way, because we’ve got a ton of innovation in my group. So I run our products group, it’s a 40 year legacy of ethernet controllers and adapters, but our newest product, the IPU that we’ll talk about today, it’s been a huge innovation for us, and we’ve been working on it for the last three years.

In my team, we have everything from architecture, to the silicon team, software, platform work, marketing, it all comes together, and we’re working on this product, and all the other products in our roadmap. It’s super fun. It’s super fun, I don’t think we’ve had this level of innovation in our team, in a long time. So we’re having a great time with it, super busy, but super fun.

Daniel Newman: Hey, I don’t think there’s another way, most people would like it, right? I’ve never had a great, boring day of work. Sometimes busy can be stressful, but a lot of times when you are making big things happen, time is both not on your side, but it’s usually, at least you’re like, ‘Hey, at least I’m enjoying this. At least we’re doing things that matter. We’re making an impact. We’re building something’, and you’re absolutely right.

I’ve been very fond of the energy that Pat Gelsinger has brought to the company since returning, it’s nothing to disparage any of the leaders that came before, but Pat clearly understands what the market’s looking for. He’s been articulate. He’s been very… Over communicative, which is something I thought the company needed to do, over the last few years.

You’ve mentioned the word innovation a couple of times, Patty, so not only are you innovating in your group, but the event that actually got us here today together, was called Intel innovation. So you wrapped up the event. What were a couple of the big highlights for you?

Patty Kummrow: Yeah, I got to be there in person. It was mostly a virtual to event, but the energy was just great. We were there on the bay, and it was really focused on recommitting to the developer community, and really focusing on innovation for Intel, in that context.

Pat talked a lot about the four computing superpowers, which we heard everyone talking about. Intel’s crystal clear what those are; they include ubiquitous compute, artificial intelligence, pervasive connectivity, and then cloud to edge infrastructure. So, to your point earlier about, ‘Hey, it’s great to be busy when you’re doing something good.’ I have to say, at Intel, there’s never an existential crisis, about the meaning of our work.

When we talk about these four superpowers, and see Pat’s energy, I don’t know if you saw his push up videos, he was revving up for the event, but this is a passionate, true commitment on his part, on the part of the company, to really be the backbone, of this data driven world, that we live in.

So, that was a big focus, Intel innovation this last week. It was really fun. For me, one of the key… I work in Nick McKeown’s group. Nick is not really new to Intel, but he’s new to the role, that he is in now.

He runs a network and edge group, and I’m part of that group. He spoke eloquently and compellingly, as he always does, about the vision for a programmable network, end to end, from the data center to the edge, and the importance of that, and the work that we do. What we announced with the IPU, is part of that.

So we announced a partnership with Google, and we were just thrilled to be able to say that out loud, because we’ve been working on this, in partnership with them for three years. We were really excited, to be able to be there with Amin, and talk about it in person. So that’s what we announced, my group did at Intel on. It was in Pat’s keynote, and that was the big news for us.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I actually got to talk to Nick this week as well, about some of the stuff going on with the robotics. Had a brief call on some news with FedEx, that had gone public, it was great. You guys gave so much access.

So I want to talk about the IPU though, a little bit more with you. The past year, and for everybody out there, just in case… Infrastructure Processing Unit, want to make sure I get that out, and get that clear.

It’s been a big year for this particular technology and for the IPU. I was super proud when Intel announced the IPU and some of the development, at our Six Five summit. Got to throw that out there, because obviously many of our followers are part of that community. The nomenclature here, is also still new, and there are some different names Patty, in the marketplace.

Talk about why Intel, first of all, it’s so excited, and why you decided on IPU versus DPU. People are asking that; DPU and smartNIC, and different names that are being coined. Why’d you go this route, and what are you guys so excited about?

Patty Kummrow: That is a great question, thank you for asking it. I have to tell you, as an engineer by training, I was a little bit stunned, that we took a minute out of engineering, to talk about, what shall we name it?

But, the debate has actually been a really important one. A common name is DPU, for data processing unit, but we really decided, that we needed to be more specific, pretty much any silicon ship, processes data. This one, is really designed for infrastructure offload. The value proposition is super clear to us for what this does, and it’s different, than other accelerator silicon.

We wanted to be specific in our name, and make that clear, so we called it the infrastructure processing unit. The things that we offload with it, are storage virtualization, network virtualization, and it’s a significant enhancer for security as well. So all of those things are really key in this, it has specific hardware acceleration, in this IPU, and then it sits under a software stack. We’re contributing to the IPDK, we talked about that at the event as well. We really believe in this being, a vendor agnostic a ecosystem change, and we want to support that.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think you were onto something important. I’ve been tracking this technology, and the development of this technology across the industry, across vendors. It’s coming from many different places, between the Silicon innovators, the cloud hyperscalers. There are many different ways that it’s being delivered, but what is for sure, is the ability to take resources, and apply them to the right part of the infrastructure so that… Compute and especially that, powerful, general purpose compute resources aren’t being used, for things that it doesn’t need to be used for.

To me, that’s the big, what’s ‘driving’ the IPU, but I thought you had some good comments in your presentations, across the board about what’s driving the development, but moreover what the role is, that the IPU is playing in the end to end network, and for my audience that maybe isn’t as familiar, I’d love for you, just to take a minute and explain that.

Patty Kummrow: Yeah. So we’ve been aware of this trend for some time now, with network virtualization, and infrastructure as a service, and of course, cloud service provider… More and more workloads moving into the cloud.

Infrastructure, just the act of running the cloud, those virtual networks, and providing security, and storage acceleration, all those things have been in software for a long time, and they’re taking up more and more and more CPU cycles in the data center. We think of those as really precious resources, and so do our customers, so as these infrastructure functions have become really clear and common, we’ve seen the opportunity to offload those from the CPUs themselves, and push them into an IPU, so that we can accelerate the performance of those, and free, free up those cores, for other uses.

So, it delivers acceleration value. These functions can get done more effectively, with higher performance, better reliability, better security, but it also really helps TCO, total cost of ownership, in the data center.

One, when we don’t have stranded resources, when we can have the IPU, can really be a control point in the data center, you can use the IPU and the IPDK, it’s running on top of it, to a switch, over to the CPU, to program your network, so that you don’t have stranded resources, and you’re much more efficient, in the way that you use the compute, the CPU and any other kind of compute you would have, in the data center for that purpose, I call storage and memory, and the CPU or GPUs, you can route your traffic, through a programmable network more effectively.

We have, through our end to end programmability, we have telemetry tools, that network operators can use, to find where problems exist in the network, to more effectively allocate their resources, and they can now do all this, in a much more automated way, through software, without having to move around fixed function devices like they used to.

So, problems that would take days to identify before, that you might not see at all now, with this telemetry function that can run on top of the IPU, and other components in the data center. You can look across the entire thing, see where your bottlenecks are, where you’re dropping packets, understand where that’s happening.

Is it, at the IPU, is it a specific app? Is there a misbehaving switch, and you can deal with it. Network operators can program… One of the things that we heard from our customer was, the complexity and scale of the network, is just growing exponentially, and it’s just not possible to manage that manually anymore. Our customers need tools, our developers need tools to make that easier, to make it more transparent, and so the IPU, that’s another value proposition it has.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. Well, there’s a lot of focus on the IPU, and the hardware. You did make some really nice, subtle mentions, to some of the technological prowess, and this is thematic throughout Intel, by the way, which is the software side, which has always been thematic, but it’s become increasingly important. When you also think about these secular trends, and some of these industry related trends, right?

Whether that’s the vRAN, whether that’s software defined networks, whether that’s one API… IPU has similar characteristics, in the fact that there’s some level of ubiquity, but also programmability, so that people can worry about resources in a more consumable, scalable on demand way, as opposed to, trying to manage it, like you said, manually, which is growing to be impossible, as you scale up networks to the amount of storage, the amount of networking, the amount of compute, and trying to get that right, and doing it all with general purpose cores, it wasted a lot of resources.

It brings me to that next question, which you started to allude to, and I’d like to dig in just a little bit deeper, which is… The users of IPUs, the service providers. It should enable them, to deliver better experiences, whether that’s running applications, managing infrastructure, but how pervasive do you see this becoming?

So you mentioned how it works, but is this something that you’re hearing, is going to start immediately replacing, at scale? Is this going to be something that Intel’s going to be talking about, in a big way in future quarters, because the buy-in is going to be really big? Because that’s what I see, but you’re the one, you’re talking, you’re on the front lines, you’re hearing from customers. Is that the direction?

Patty Kummrow: Yeah, absolutely. I the value proposition was born with the hyperscalers, years ago. We already have IPUs, Intel does in the market, FPGA based IPUs. With many different customers, they are not appropriate for every use case, which is why we’ve developed the IPU, that we announced with Google, it’s an ASIC based one.

But, this transition’s already happened. It’s already years in the making, and it’s coming faster and faster, than we even anticipated. I think just because, in a way, it has a Swiss army knife characteristic to it, in that it can do a lot of different things. Infrastructure is such a key part now, of the scale of any data center, just about, right?

We see this this transition happening really quickly, and we think it’s really important, for it to be vendor agnostic, for the focus to be on the software and the developers, and for it to really be, not just a component, but a tool that really unleashes scale, for all the operators and our customers.

For an end user, an end user should see benefit from this as well. Security isolation, is a really key value proposition, that benefits everyone. But, for our user, for example, we have reliable transport technology that we developed with Google, and that addresses some tail latency issues that we’ve seen, in current networks, and so in turn, congestion.

So with that, users would see better performance, for apps that they run, and there’s lots and lots of examples like that. Crypto and compression are included. There’s hardware acceleration for crypto and compression in this device. So, storage and secure packet transfer, all of those things can be accelerated with an IPU.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, there’s a number of great examples, and maybe that’s a good place to take this, is just briefly… An area that stood out to me, that was talked about during the innovation event was storage. During the event, you spoke on the IPU, providing some big advantages for storage architectures, driving both performance and operational efficiency. This is something I think people would love to hear. Explain how that works, because that’s an area every company’s dealing with, is storage, as the volume of data, continues to grow exponentially.

Patty Kummrow: Yeah. The IPU gives people a lot of flexibility, in how they architect the data center, so that they have fewer stranded storage resources, and can support different hierarchies. So the IPU can do diskless server architectures, and you can do disaggregated storage architectures.

You could have localhost storage, and you can have compression and security that’s better than what it was before. So, I think it’s really again, a Swiss army knife tool, to help our customers, in whatever different configuration they think they need, so that they can have more performant storage access, and less stranded resourcing, this is a great tool for that, and the software that runs on top of it, obviously.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I agree with that completely. So you covered this pretty well, and I think there’s a clearly going to be momentum, and this’ll be something as an analyst, I’m going to be watching very closely, looking across the different landscape and saying, ‘Hey, which companies are gaining the, not only momentum, but gaining market share, which companies are building the most scalable architectures?’.

Again, as I mentioned, and I want to reiterate, I think your software pedigree is going to be very important there, because that’s where so much, of the evolution of hardware right now is coming from. But, if I could wrap this up, on a bigger, more visionary question, Patty. What do you think the listeners may want to know, about the evolution of IPUs and what do you thinks going to come next? How does this… CPUs, there’s an iteration, whether it’s Moore’s law or different ways that people are looking for. What’s the innovation iteration improvement cycle, look like for IPUs, because I can’t imagine we’re done.

Patty Kummrow: No, that’s a beautiful question, Dan. I love this question. We’re just getting started. It’s the wild west out there with these devices, because they can do so many different things, and because so many different things are needed in the market. I see a really strong cadence by that. Often we will come out with a new product, because the rate of innovation with our customers, is so strong, that we have to innovate quickly here.

What I love is that we have a software play, because as one of our customers says, ‘I need to update my network at the speed of software, not at the speed of hardware.’.

We have FPGAs in our portfolio, we have Mount Evans, and then the next one will be after it, on a pretty quick cadence.

We have lots of different hardware tools, hardware offerings in our portfolio, but the fact that we are supporting the IPDK effort, really looked to that, to unify the interface, for our developers and our customers, means that we can keep up with this pace, without, really making it hard on our customers, because they’re always having to change hardware.

We want to continue to accelerate in hardware, everything that’s clearly worth accelerating, and in the meantime, really lean into software, and optimize the networks on top of that hardware. I think this is super exciting. We’ve really changed the way that we look at the data center, and it’s an XPU based implementation. You’ve heard us talk about that now, instead of what it was in the past. We’re enabling a ton of flexibility with this, and we’re going to keep partnering deeply with customers.

This is just one of the deepest partnerships our companies ever had, to develop Mount Evans, and that has been a huge benefit to us, to really know, to be coupled to the tip of the spear in innovation, and know what’s needed at the forefront, and then be able to build it. We’re going to keep doing that. I expect we’ll be talking about this a lot, and delivering a lot of value with it.

Daniel Newman: We’ll have to have you back, and talk about some of the progress that’s made, over the next six and 12 months. It’s going to be continuous, it’s going to be ongoing. By the way, for everyone out there that heard her say Mount Evans, Intel loves using different code names, that are usually nature related. So if you weren’t familiar, we were still talking about the IPU, and I’m guessing she’s had a lot of meetings and Mount Evans, is probably day in and day out, how they refer to this technology.

Patty Kummrow, I want to thank you so much for spending some time here with me, on the Future of tech webcast, great to hear from you. Great to hear all about what’s going on with the IPU and how Intel is building out its strategy, its roadmap, and partnerships, and proposing to become a market leader in this space. I hope to have you back soon.

Patty Kummrow: Thank you so much for having me, and thanks for the Six Five summit, as our original entry out into the world.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, we’re going to be talking to you more so-

Patty Kummrow: Alright.

Daniel Newman: Just stand by, but thanks again, Patty.

Patty Kummrow: Thank you.

Daniel Newman: All right, everybody. You heard it. You heard it here. Patty Kummrow, general manager for Intel ethernet products group. Great presentation, some deep insights into her business unit. What’s going on with the IPU, everything from how the company got there, to where the business is going.

Definitely an area to keep in focus, it’s going to have a significant impact on the future of the way data centers are designed, implemented it and managed. So for this interview though, it’s time to say goodbye. So again, I want to thank Intel for being a sponsor on this episode. Really appreciate the chance to talk to Patty and to the executives throughout the organization, to better understand what’s going on in the business and hopefully pass that knowledge on to you.

So check out the show notes, learn more, some links down there, that can give you more information on the event, as well as the other shows, that we did during the Intel innovation event. Of course, hit subscribe, join us for all of our episodes here on the Futurum Tech webcast. But for now I got to say goodbye. So I’ll see you later.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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