“I produced good research results as a professor. It’s a good achievement in itself, but personally, it is regrettable that the public is not aware of my having produced the best performances. I wanted to showcase my results to the world, so I founded Mango Boost.”
Mango Boost is a startup founded this year by Professor Jang-Woo Kim of the SNU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering together with his students. The startup is still in its infancy and has just started seed investment, but during the interview, CEO Kim emanated pride and composure.
Since 2013, CEO Kim has been running the High-Performance Computer System Lab at SNU. His research interests are technologies for operating high-performance systems such as servers, AI systems, neuromorphic systems, virtualization systems, storage, security systems, and deep learning systems and he has published more than 60 papers at relevant renowned global conferences such as ACM and IEEE. Mango Boost is a DPU development startup founded based on such studies. We heard why CEO Kim founded the startup and what are Mango Boost’s edge over competitors.
CEO Kim of Mango Boost
“From a professor to the CEO of Mango Boost”
CPUs and GPUs are now familiar to the public, but the public may not yet be familiar with DPUs. DPU stands for Data Processing Unit and is used to operate large-scale systems such as data centers and servers rather than personal devices. As advanced technology develops, the amount of data that data centers and servers have to process is increasing. In the past, this data could be processed by the CPU, but now it has come to a point where it is unreasonable to process the data only with the CPU.
The processor that emerged to solve such a problem is the DPU. DPU is a system semiconductor that goes beyond simple data processing and plays a role in assisting in efficiently accelerating workloads and plays a role in overseeing networking, storage, security, and other core areas. It could be thought of as a processor that provides a system infrastructure that increases efficiency from data centers to edge devices by combining multiple semiconductors such as CPU, GPU, FPGA, and memory into a single device.
Only major companies such as Nvidia, AMD, Intel, and Amazon have expanded their business to DPU development. Nvidia and AMD were able to secure related technologies by acquiring Mellanox and Xilinx/Pesando Systems respectively. However, even the technologies developed by them are still in their infancy, and so standardized DPUs do not yet exist in the market.
CEO Kim decided to jump into the blue ocean since the technology has just begun to develop. He said, “We are proud of having the best research achievements, such as publishing quality papers and obtaining patents, and we wanted to showcase our work to the public.” He felt that founding a startup would be necessary to properly show that his works are world-renowned, and thus he founded the DPU startup.
Upon hearing that the professor that taught them was starting a business, students from SNU and POSTECH expressed their intention to join the company. CEO Kim said, “Students that can live as skilled experts anywhere told me that they wanted to work with me. If it were not for the disciples, founding the company would have been difficult”, and that “talents that I could trust came together to create the Mango Boost of today.”
Apart from CEO Kim’s students, about 10 doctoral-level experts from Korea and from abroad also decided to join Mango Boost. Among them is a project manager level talent who was developing FPGA accelerators at Intel. CEO Kim explained that Mango Boost currently consists of about 20 ‘national representative level’ employees and is still reaching out to hire talents.
Prototype system that contains core technologies of Mango Boost DPUs (Source: Mango Boost)
“We will make all devices smart”
Mango Boost’s slogan is “Out DPU makes all devices smart”. The DPU currently being developed by major global companies has a limitation; they are all specialized for a limited field. Since the market is still in its infancy and it is difficult to implement the technology, there are no standards yet.
CEO Kim emphasized that Mango Boost can be competitive in the market because its DPU has flexibility. He explained that Mango Boost’s DPUs can be easily applied to data centers and servers, and services can be provided instantly.
Kim said, “In order to develop a general-purpose DPU that can be applied to many devices, there is a need to obtain a higher level of technology”, and that “Mango Boost could make a flexible DPU based on the research so far, and since we also provide a software stack, we can make it possible for anyone to make all devices smart through DPUs.”
According to CEO Jang-Woo Kim, system and software technologies play an important role in developing DPUs. He said, “In general, it is ideal for system semiconductor companies to have 25% of their manpower focused on semiconductor design, and 75% of their manpower focused on system/software development. Mango Boost has such proportions.”
“The nature and direction of fabless manufacturing companies differ depending on the main R&D field of the founder, and several domestic fabless companies were established by founders from semiconductor design and manufacturing backgrounds. Mango Bost was established based on system and software technology, and thus can be called a proper system semiconductor company.”, explained Jang-Woo Kim. Since system semiconductors play a role in driving systems/software, companies need to acquire relevant technological foundations.
Mango Boost is currently developing its DPUs through two divisions. One division builds on FPGA, and the other builds on a self-developed ASIC. The product that is planned to be released this year is the ‘MBDPU-1’, which is based on FPGAs.
CEO Kim said, “ ‘MBDPU-1’ is a DPU with prototype performance that integrates the achievements accumulated in the lab at SNU. After producing results using FPGAs, by developing an optimized ASIC-based DPU, we will be able to implement a higher performing device.”
Mango Boost held a seed investment round on May 30 and raised 13 billion wons. Although the startup has just started, CEO Kim has a vision of developing the company into a system semiconductor company that dominates the world.
He said, “I expect the company to dominate the world with research results from domestic universities”, and that “the company has just been founded and there is much to do, but I will show results to the world.”
Translated by: Do-Hyung Kim, English Editor of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org