NextIO Brings I/O Virtualization to HPC

By Michael Feldman

July 30, 2009

Although the concept of I/O virtualization has been around for years, the trend to make datacenter infrastructure more cost-, space- and energy-efficient is starting to draw a lot of attention to this technology. The idea is that instead of attaching devices to each server, I/O is consolidated on an external box that can virtualize those resources for multiple servers.

Besides efficiency, one of the biggest advantages to this separation is that compute and I/O can be upgraded independently of one another. In general, CPUs have a relatively short refresh cycle of 12-18 months, while I/O devices tend to have multi-year lifetimes.

The other advantage, of course, is flexibility. Being able to remap I/O on the fly in a datacenter offers a way for system administrators to optimize the storage and network resources without having to manually reconfigure hardware and networks. For cloud computing setups where application demands can be extremely dynamic, this type of flexibility is especially valuable.

Early players like Xsigo and 3Leaf Systems have I/O virtualization solutions that consolidate network and storage connections with an Ethernet/Fibre Channel/InfiniBand gateway box (and associated software) that replaces server-side HBAs and NICs. These solutions can even take the place of multiple top-of-rack switches. The BridgeX gateway from Mellanox is designed along the same lines. In these cases, either Ethernet or InfiniBand is the underlying network used to connect the virtualization gateways to the servers.

Relatively new on the I/O virtualization scene, NextIO has taken a different route by employing PCI Express (PCIe) as both the server-gateway connection and the I/O interface. In effect, the local PCIe interface is extended outside the server. The company’s first generation product for rack servers, the N2800-ICA, is a top-of-rack appliance that offers 14 PCIe x8 connections. Since PCIe is already the common denominator for server I/O, the NextIO appliance is able to support Ethernet, Fibre Channel, InfiniBand, SATA, SAS, SSD, and GPU devices.

GPU virtualization, in particular, is especially relevant for HPC applications. Offloading a lot of heavy-duty numerical computations from the CPU to the GPU often calls for a large GPU-to-CPU ratio. The problem is that the form factor of standard 1U servers doesn’t allow for more than one or two GPUs. For example, the latest GPU-accelerated 1U box from Supermicro incorporates two NVIDIA M1060 Tesla GPUs.

“There are limitations in the way servers are made today,” explains Mike Lance, NextIO’s director of marketing. “In order to get a lot of GPU connectivity per server, you have to buy a very, very expensive server with a lot of PCI express slots. What customers really want is to be able to use their 1U rack servers, which are very low cost, have a lot of compute power and memory to run most applications, and then connect those up to as many GPUs as they can to run their simulation programs.”

The NextIO appliance can support up to six double-wide GPU cards (or twelve single-wide cards), which can be mapped to a single server. Of course, bandwidth is limited by the PCIe link from the server, but since GPU-friendly codes are often compute-bound anyway, I/O communication is usually not the bottleneck. At the SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) conference last month, NextIO demonstrated good scaling on a Monte Carlo option pricing application using a setup where a 1U server was accessing up to five NVIDIA GPUs connected to its appliance.

Alternatively, GPUs can be shared across multiple servers in a rack. NextIO appliances can also be daisy-chained via a PCIe inter-switch link to aggregate even more resources. For example, one could add some PCIe SSD devices to get one or two million IOPS of storage on top of a GPU-filled appliance. “You can really build a performance-oriented resource pool and then carve it up based on your application demand,” says Chris Pettey, CTO and co-founder of NextIO.

HPC is really a secondary focus for the company. Its primary market is in 10GigE and 8G Fibre Channel consolidation for mainstream datacenter applications. But because it went the PCIe route, it was able to tap into GPU computing and PCIe-based SSD storage acceleration, which just happen to be a good fit for performance-driven applications. Right now, HPC is the company’s most active market, so it’s giving it extra attention. Today it has customers who are using its multi-GPU solution for medical imaging and flight simulations applications, but certainly other HPC application areas are possible.

NextIO’s next generation platform is still in the proof-of-concept stage, but one thing the company is looking at is incorporating the concept of “server personalities.” Basically, a personality defines a server’s I/O characteristics, such as MAC address range, bandwidth guarantee, QoS parameters, boot parameters, WWN address range. System administrators would be able to pre-provision the datacenter with the personalities that match different types of applications (such as Web servers, Exchange servers, SAP servers) and then map those personalities to physical servers dynamically.

In the HPC realm, for example, it would be possible to define dual-GPU and quad-GPU personalities for different applications and then apply those configurations to the same server on the fly as the workload shifted. In a cloud type environment, it might even make sense to mix HPC and non-HPC configurations by constructing an external I/O resource pool with GPUs, SSDs, InfiniBand adapters and Ethernet NICs. “In a normal environment you’re restricted by the physical topology,” says Pettey. “In our environment that would be completely soft, so you can reconfigure your machine based on the demands of your application.”

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!

Scalable Informatics Ceases Operations

March 23, 2017

On the same day we reported on the uncertain future for HPC compiler company PathScale, we are sad to learn that another HPC vendor, Scalable Informatics, is closing its doors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Strategies in Biomedical Data Science’ Advances IT-Research Synergies

March 23, 2017

“Strategies in Biomedical Data Science: Driving Force for Innovation” by Jay A. Etchings is both an introductory text and a field guide for anyone working with biomedical data. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Launches New Machine Learning Journal

March 22, 2017

On Monday, Google announced plans to launch a new peer review journal and “ecosystem” Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HFT Firms Turn to Co-Location to Gain Competitive Advantage

High-frequency trading (HFT) is a high-speed, high-stakes world where every millisecond matters. Finding ways to execute trades faster than the competition translates directly to greater revenue for firms, brokerages, and exchanges. Read more…

Swiss Researchers Peer Inside Chips with Improved X-Ray Imaging

March 22, 2017

Peering inside semiconductor chips using x-ray imaging isn’t new, but the technique hasn’t been especially good or easy to accomplish. Read more…

By John Russell

LANL Simulation Shows Massive Black Holes Break ‘Speed Limit’

March 21, 2017

A new computer simulation based on codes developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is shedding light on how supermassive black holes could have formed in the early universe contrary to most prior models which impose a limit on how fast these massive ‘objects’ can form. Read more…

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Ships Drives Based on 3D XPoint Non-volatile Memory

March 20, 2017

Intel Corp. has begun shipping new storage drives based on its 3D XPoint non-volatile memory technology as it targets data-driven workloads. Intel’s new Optane solid-state drives, designated P4800X, seek to combine the attributes of memory and storage in the same device. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Japanese Supercomputing Project Targets Exascale

March 14, 2017

Another Japanese supercomputing project was revealed this week, this one from emerging supercomputer maker, ExaScaler Inc., and Keio University. The partners are working on an original supercomputer design with exascale aspirations. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Debuts HGX-1 for Cloud; Announces Fujitsu AI Deal

March 9, 2017

On Monday Nvidia announced a major deal with Fujitsu to help build an AI supercomputer for RIKEN using 24 DGX-1 servers. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC4Mfg Advances State-of-the-Art for American Manufacturing

March 9, 2017

Last Friday (March 3, 2017), the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program held an industry engagement day workshop in San Diego, bringing together members of the US manufacturing community, national laboratories and universities to discuss the role of high-performance computing as an innovation engine for American manufacturing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This