Extending 10 Gigabit Ethernet to the Edge

By Bill Woodruff

April 25, 2008

Today’s Gigabit Ethernet is fully exploited in the datacenter. Since Gigabit Ethernet (GE) began appearing in datacenters a decade ago, performance demands and computing strategies have changed dramatically. Server performance has increased 100-fold through higher clock speeds, more efficient and compact processor designs, and the use of multicore processors. Virtualization has become a key strategy for server management, demanding higher server I/O performance to support multiple Virtual Machines (VMs) per server. In addition, the concept of converged I/O has moved storage onto existing Ethernet pipes, further increasing the demand for bandwidth. These demands began to fill existing GE links years ago, and the unmet demand for bandwidth has begun to impact datacenter performance.

The obvious answer is to extend 10-Gigabit connectivity at the edge, between servers and their corresponding switch downlinks. However, 10-Gigabit connectivity for servers is materializing more slowly than desired, because optical 10-Gigabit Ethernet adapters are too expensive and too complex for use in the high volume environment needed for servers. The expectations and requirements at the edge of the network are not the same as they are for inter-switch links.

Short-term solutions exist for the bandwidth squeeze at the edge of the network. The first step to satisfying this bandwidth demand was link aggregation, where multiple GE links are set up between the server and switch, only incrementally increasing the overall available bandwidth. On the other hand, some users have sufficient bandwidth demand to deploy 10GE at the edge today utilizing XFP or SFP+ optical modules, and are willing to accept the cost and complexity inherent with such optical solutions.

10GBASE-T: High-Volume 10-Gigabit Ethernet

What the market is calling for is an implementation of 10-Gigabit Ethernet which is as simple and cost-effective as Gigabit Ethernet is today, with plug-and-play simplicity via familiar unshielded twisted pair (UTP) copper cabling and RJ45 connectors. Vendors of edge-connected datacenter equipment are eager to see dual-port NICs with servers connecting to aggregation switches, starting in the near future at the 16- to 24-port density.

The 10GBASE-T standard (802.3an, ratified by the IEEE in June 2006) provides this solution. 10GBASE-T leverages a couple of attributes inherent in silicon-based technology. Moore’s Law applies, delivering the benefit of continued process shrinks.

Integration is the other benefit delivered by Moore’s Law. The path to higher integration in servers will deliver LAN-on-Motherboard (LOM), in which 10GBASE-T appears as a standard feature, not as an option. Higher integration in switches will combine with dual-PHYs, which will be followed by quads and higher integration as process and circuit advances permit. On the way to this destination, 10GBASE-T PHYs will also be making progress on a number of vectors.

Power: The limitations for device power are derived from the requirements of the target platforms. PCIe Network Interface Cards (NICs) are limited to 25W, with pressure to see them come in at power of 18W or less. New generation 10GBASE-T (in conjunction with state-of-the-art controllers) meets this objective. Ethernet switches will aggregate this edge traffic.

First generation 10GBASE-T switches will be scaled to meet the demands of the datacenter. Densities of 16 to 24 ports are initially required, balancing switch fabric densities and desired oversubscription rates. These switch densities become feasible once 10GBASE-T achieves the low power required to fit within such a platform.

Over time, power will continue to be a key requirement. Servers will move 10GBASE-T on the motherboard, and switches will drive densities of 48 ports and higher. These improvements will be enabled as advances in semiconductor processes permit continued reductions in per-port power.

Costs: Copper PHY solutions provide the lowest total cost. 10GBASE-T leverages silicon rules, which will drive down costs. Perhaps more important is the nature of how copper PHYs are configured within equipment. It is difficult to conceptualize a server with anything other than a pair of RJ45s on the back panel. Similarly, Ethernet switches represent completely different cost profiles between copper and optics: line cards with RJ45s have no incremental costs as the capacity is utilized. Optics will not only require the selection and purchase of the correct module, but since the module is purchased retail, margin stacking will be present in the final customer cost.

Cabling Environment: Datacenters utilize “structured cabling,” which defines a cabling implementation where the racks and cabling are part of the “structure,” and the servers and switches can be placed (and moved) with great flexibility. Cross connects with patch cords provide the flexibility to connect any server to any switch. 10GBASE-T is defined for 100 meters, but as importantly, this includes 4 connectors, permitting a cross connect on both ends of the horizontal cabling. It is easy to visualize the benefit of using a cabling like UTP, which can be easily field-terminated.

Rate Flexibility: Customers expect connections over an RJ45 to always work. The standard defines auto-negotiation, which permits ports to link at the maximum possible speed, but most importantly, to always link. 10GBASE-T will coexist with 1000BASE-T (and 100BASE-T) for a number of years, and the triple speed capability of 100/1000/10GBASE-T PHYs translate to network operational savings because UTP links will always come up.

Green Initiatives: Low power may not be what comes to mind for most people when thinking about first generation 10GBASE-T devices. However, we will we see significant power savings for those with innovative architectures and through adoption of finer geometry processes. Further, there are a number of initiatives underway that will drive down system power. Most interesting among these is the work underway in IEEE802.3az, or Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE). EEE promises to permit copper PHYs to see drastically reduced power under reduced traffic, but also to permit the benefits of lower power to extend within the server or system. Such new techniques are in addition to current green strategies that have been well proven with copper PHYs, such as wake-on-LAN (WOL). A 10GBASE-T link, which shifts down to the 100Mb/s speed, can enter a sleep state and use WOL to exit the sleep state via a network command.

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

New copper-based networking technology always follows a development curve that begins with making it work, advances to making it economically feasible for commercial deployment, and then drives on toward ever-greater deployment and ever-declining costs. We are now at the point with 10GBASE-T where technical feasibility is rapidly advancing toward commercially viable manufacturing and deployment. Semiconductor producers that win in the marketplace will be those that design their products to meet not only the key market and technical requirements for initial deployments, but to scale and improve as the market grows.

About the Author

Bill Woodruff is vice president of Marketing and Business Development at Aquantia Corp. (www.aquantia.com). Bill has identified and driven multiple generations of leading-edge interconnect technologies. He led Velio’s penetration of the grooming switch market. Earlier positions include GiGA (acquired by Intel), Vitesse and Mostek. He holds a BSEE from the University of Missouri and an MBA from SMU.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Fugaku, Congress, De Novo Design & More

July 2, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC-Powered Simulations Reveal a Looming Climatic Threat to Vital Monsoon Seasons

June 30, 2020

As June draws to a close, eyes are turning to the latter half of the year – and with it, the monsoon and hurricane seasons that can prove vital or devastating for many of the world’s coastal communities. Now, climate Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This year is no different though the conversion of ISC to a digital Read more…

By John Russell

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

At ISC, the Fight Against COVID-19 Took the Stage – and Yes, Fugaku Was There

June 23, 2020

With over nine million infected and nearly half a million dead, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the world’s attention for several months. It has also dominat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This