Mellanox Rolls Out Next Iteration of ConnectX

By John West

September 3, 2009

This week Mellanox announced a refinement of its ConnectX line with the ConnectX-2 architecture. This latest evolution enhances its combination InfiniBand/Ethernet network adapter cards with new features, such added support for IEEE DCB standards and enhanced RDMA access, while maintaining the advantages of the previous line for those needing to support multiple protocols with limited server real estate.

The ConnectX-2 family of controller chips and adapter cards comes in a variety of flavors supporting Ethernet, InfiniBand, and (most interestingly) both. The ConnectX-2 EN/ENt cards support 10 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) with options for CX4, SFP+, and 10GBASE-T connections, while the IB cards support 10/20/40Gb/s InfiniBand with CX4 or QSFP connections. The favorite children in the family, however, are clearly the ConnectX-2 Virtual Protocol Interface (VPI) cards that support both 10/20/40Gb/s InfiniBand and 10 GbE on a single Converged Network Adapter (CNA). Each card sports two ports, one IB and one Ethernet, and come in either CX4 variant (both ports) or a QSFP/SFP+ version.

So, why might one want a single card that supports both interconnects? There is a lot of talk about something called convergence, most of which centers on whether or not everything will, or will not, eventually end up running on Ethernet. Even if you aren’t a datacenter networks person, you have probably heard of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), and there are other examples as well. Proponents say that Ethernet is already deployed everywhere and a single fabric will focus R&D efforts and streamline deployments. Opponents say that one size never really does fit all, and by the time you finish fixing the problems of Ethernet relative to purpose-built protocols (Ethernet is a best effort protocol with no flow control), you’ve lost all the advantages of convergence in lower performance and system complexity.

Whichever side you come down on here (if indeed you have a side at all), there is a clear advantage for HPC and cluster builders with the ConnectX-2 family of adapters, and that’s in server real estate and cabling. Although many applications will use the ConnectX-2 in either Ethernet or IB mode, the VPI card supports both simultaneously. In the latest TOP500 list, 30 percent of clusters have InfiniBand interconnects, and the VPI card will allow cluster designers to have an IB network for cluster communications and support access to Lustre storage over 10 GbE, or other permutations (an Ethernet control network and an IB network for data communications, and so on). In fact, Lawrence Livermore is using the VPI card in precisely this mode:

“This technology allows us to provide greater high-performance computing resources to researchers in our national security programs by simplifying the design, and lowering the cost and power requirements of our scalable units for scientific simulation clusters,” said Mark Seager, assistant department head for advanced technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “In addition, these new adapters enable higher Lustre file system performance with greater connection flexibility between the InfiniBand cluster interconnect and our 10 Gigabit Ethernet storage area network.”

You could also imagine, for example, provisioning a cluster with two data communications networks, and tailoring the network to the workload.

Among the improvements in this version of the product family are support for IEEE’s 802.1 Data Center Bridging (DCB) specifications and hardware offload support for improved FCoE performance. The new cards also use less power: 35 percent less on the 10GbE side, and 15 percent less for IB. The InfiniBand port supports up to 40 Gb/s bandwidth with 1 microsecond latencies; on the Ethernet port the cards support 10Gb/s bandwidth with 6 microsecond TCP latency or 3 microsecond RDMA latency. Kernel bypass is also available for Low Latency Ethernet environments. ConnectX-2 samples are available today, and the products are expected to be generally available in October.

There are other vendors offering converged networking solutions, but, in general, the available solutions today — including Mellanox’s offering — are outstanding in only a few of the possible areas of interest. For example, Brocade offers a CNA that works well for storage and server networks with support for both FCoE and iSCSI. The Mellanox ConnectX-2 family seems to hold a lot of promise for combined storage and low latency server networking.

As Brian Sparks of Mellanox said when I talked with him about this announcement, “It really is hard for a single technology to be great at both LAN and high performance local interconnect.” The analogy he used in our discussion was the displacement of magnetic disk drives by new technologies like optical and SSD. Each time, the new technologies have opened up new areas of application, and taken a little share from the magnetic incumbents, but at the end of the day, there was a place where each technology was clearly superior. If there is an ultimate convergence, it will be a long time out, but until then, Mellanox is well positioned to sell to all sides of the debate.

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!

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’s introduction of an ARM-based system (XC-50) last November. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) in Los Angeles. The Read more…

By Staff

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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