A Couple of New InfiniBand Songs

By Michael Feldman

March 25, 2010

Apropos of nothing in particular, it occurred to me that “InfiniBand” would actually be a good name for a rock band. OK, to be honest, the topic is apropos of something. I’ve been spilling a lot of digital ink lately on the new high-end CPU and GPU news this spring, so I’ve let a few InfiniBand stories slip by. With that in mind, I thought this would be a good opportunity to recap a couple of the latest happenings in the IB universe.

This past Tuesday, QLogic announced a QDR InfiniBand pass-through module for Dell PowerEdge blade systems. The new QLogic 12005-PT16 is a single-slot module that fits neatly into a PowerEdge M1000e chassis. The module supports up to 16 QDR ports that directly hook into an InfiniBand mezzanine card. Conveniently, QLogic is also introducing a M1000e mezz card, the QME7342, that fulfills this role. The mezz card connects the blade servers to a standard external InfiniBand switch (QLogic or otherwise).

So what’s the big fuss? If you missed the pass-through module lecture in your Networking 101 class, here’s the Cliff Notes version: Pass-through hardware is an alternative to a traditional internal switch found in most blade systems. Unlike a switch, which directs message traffic to specific network addresses, a pass-through is a much simpler solution that just provides a point-to-point connection from the host out to the external fabric. The general idea of a pass-through is to make the switches independent of the compute infrastructure, just as they are in a rack server setup.

The limitation is that blade architectures tend to be very proprietary, and not all systems are amenable to a pass-through solution. It depends on how the OEM has designed the enclosure, the ability to support the additional cabling required by a pass-through solution, and also if that vendor is interested in integrating and selling switch hardware as part of its solution. In the case of the M1000e, Dell does offer a Mellanox M3601Q switch for InfiniBand connectivity. But the M-Blade design can accommodate a pass-through as well and, according to QLogic, has some big advantages.

One of those advantages is that the QLogic module only occupies a single slot in the blade chassis, instead of two for the Mellanox switch. As a result, there is an extra I/O slot in the blade chassis that can be used for a 10 GbE hookup. This is especially important if the blade needs to access Ethernet storage or I/O out on the network.

Also, because there’s no switch silicon and associated hardware in the pass-through, it uses much less power. The QLogic 12005-PT16 draws just 40 watts compared to 80 watts for the Mellanox switch. Overall, QLogic is claiming a 45 percent power savings for a M1000e enclosure using its pass-through module and new mezz card. This is a big deal, since one of the knocks on blade systems is that they tend to run hot as a result of the dense designs.

Finally, since the pass-through module doesn’t do any switching, it eliminates internal switch hops, which cuts down on communication latency. As long as you don’t have external edge switches to deal with, you can get away with eliminating a whole interconnect layer and connect directly to the core datacenter switch. QLogic reports an almost non-existent 400 picosecond point-to-point latency for the pass-through module itself.

In talking to Steve Zivanic, QLogic’s director of corporate communication, this latest set of products is part of a broader strategy to expand their InfiniBand penetration via their OEM partners. QLogic IB gear is now being stocked by some of the biggest HPC cluster makers, including IBM, HP, Dell, and SGI. According to Zivanic, they’re ramping up the sales team and hiring HPC specialists to further increase their competitiveness. “You’re going to see us getting a lot more aggressive this year with InfiniBand,” he told me.

The other InfiniBand story that slipped by a couple of weeks ago was Voltaire’s announcement of its Fabric Collective Accelerator (FCA) technology to accelerate MPI operations on Voltaire switches. In a nutshell, the FCA software uses CPUs inside the switches to offload MPI collective operations. Voltaire claims that the initial version is able to accelerate “high performance computing applications such as reservoir modeling, fluid dynamics, crash analysis and others by up to a factor of ten.” And from the application’s point of view, the offloaded computations are transparent.

Potentially this could greatly lengthen the longevity of MPI codes. One of the weaknesses of the distributed MPI style of computing is that collective operations have to be globally synchronized, which makes these applications harder to scale. And the routines themselves are recursive, so tend to be extremely compute-intensive. The result is that for some codes up to 90 percent of the host’s CPU time is spent inside these collective routines.

The brute force solution has been to make the switch and host adapter hardware faster to compensate for the larger fabrics and cluster sizes, and make the cluster nodes more computationally dense to speed host-side processing. Mellanox has incorporated MPI offload technology inside a host adapter, but by adding MPI smarts into the switch itself, Voltaire says message processing can optimized much more efficiently.

According to Asaf Somekh, Voltaire’s VP of marketing, the FCA technology not only relieves the host of a computational burden, it also is in a position to cut down on the volume of message traffic being sent across the fabric, thus reducing communication bottlenecks. The idea is to magnify the computational performance of the servers, turning them into a sort of super-cluster.

That would be welcome news indeed for HPC customers who would like to be able to use clusters for capability-level computing, rather than having to turn to the more custom-built (and expensive) solutions like the IBM Blue Gene or the Cray XT. In fact, Somekh believes FCA will be a key technology to propel commodity clusters into the capability supercomputer market. “In my mind, this is one of the Holy Grails of HPC,” he says.

OK. But it deserves a bit stronger branding than Fabric Collective Accelerator. How about “InfiniBand Overdrive”? Hey, now that really would be a great name for a rock band.

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!

UCSD, AIST Forge Tighter Alliance with AI-Focused MOU

January 18, 2018

The rich history of collaboration between UC San Diego and AIST in Japan is getting richer. The organizations entered into a five-year memorandum of understanding on January 10. The MOU represents the continuation of a 1 Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 Tennessee), Satoshi Matsuoka (Tokyo Institute of Technology), Read more…

By John Russell

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 and Spectre security updates on the performance of popular H Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

Fostering Lustre Advancement Through Development and Contributions

January 17, 2018

Six months after organizational changes at Intel's High Performance Data (HPDD) division, most in the Lustre community have shed any initial apprehension around the potential changes that could affect or disrupt Lustre Read more…

By Carlos Aoki Thomaz

UCSD, AIST Forge Tighter Alliance with AI-Focused MOU

January 18, 2018

The rich history of collaboration between UC San Diego and AIST in Japan is getting richer. The organizations entered into a five-year memorandum of understandi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

Fostering Lustre Advancement Through Development and Contributions

January 17, 2018

Six months after organizational changes at Intel's High Performance Data (HPDD) division, most in the Lustre community have shed any initial apprehension aroun Read more…

By Carlos Aoki Thomaz

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitiv Read more…

By John Russell

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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

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

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

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

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

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a 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

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

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

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in 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

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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