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!

UK to Launch Six Major HPC Centers

March 27, 2017

Six high performance computing centers will be formally launched in the U.K. later this week intended to provide wider access to HPC resources to U.K. Read more…

By John Russell

AI in the News: Rao in at Intel, Ng out at Baidu, Nvidia on at Tencent Cloud

March 26, 2017

Just as AI has become the leitmotif of the advanced scale computing market, infusing much of the conversation about HPC in commercial and industrial spheres, it also is impacting high-level management changes in the industry. Read more…

By Doug Black

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

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Quants Achieving Maximum Compute Power without the Learning Curve

The financial services industry is a fast-paced and data-intensive environment, and financial firms are realizing that they must modernize their IT infrastructures and invest in high performance computing (HPC) tools in order to survive. Read more…

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

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…

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

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

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

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