Is 10 Gigabit Ethernet Ready for HPC?

By Tim Dales

November 18, 2010

Despite the still-modest showing of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) technology in high performance computing deployments, vendors at SC10 were showcasing a wide array of performance-laden Ethernet products. In addition to stalwart HPC network vendors like Arista, BLADE Network Technologies (now part of IBM), Myricom, Voltaire and Mellanox, plying their 10GbE wares in the exhibition hall, we also saw Cisco, Brocade, Fulcrum, Solarflare, and ADVA Optical Networking trying to woo the HPC faithful.

IT Brand Pulse Labs analyst Tim Dales takes a look at the prospects for 10GbE in high performance computing, the migration pattern from GbE to 10GbE, and some application areas that seem especially suitable for the technology.

There are two key elements in 10 Gigabit Ethernet that will help drive increased adoption in the high performance computing (HPC) market: throughput (Mbps) and low-latency. Until now the networking I/O provided for HPC has been dominated by 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and InfiniBand. According to the HPC Advisory Council, in 2009 the HPC market interconnect breakdown was 43 percent GbE, 40 percent InfiniBand and 17 percent other. However, this is all about to change as 10GbE, low-latency adapters emerge in the market and become proven in HPC applications.

1Gbit to 10Gbit Migration

An enormous number of legacy HPC systems use 1Gbit today to access storage (NFS) and for inter-processor communication (IPC) between nodes. Upgrades to 10Gbit in HPC implementations can net 10x throughput improvements with a small investment in adapters and switches. B simply upgrading the network I/O, a large compute job in an HPC cluster would take a fraction of the time to complete and system managers can get more work done in less time. The question for existing HPC systems managers is whether the investment in improved network I/O will yield the necessary return to justify the upgrade. Currently, the price delta between 1Gbit and 10Gbit sever adapters is 4x for 10x of throughput improvement, which results in a lower 10Gbit normalized price.

As new HPC projects are funded and launched in the private and public sectors, designers will take a hard look at 10Gbit due to its cross-market appeal and improved performance but need to be convinced that the second element, low-latency capability, is available.

10Gbit Low-Latency Ethernet Applications

The brightest spot in 10Gbit low-latency applications is financial services and a subset called High Frequency Trading (HFT). HFT is a multi-billion dollar business niche that relies on low-latency market feeds from stock exchanges, a cluster of high-powered processors to run proprietary algorithms on the data, and another low-latency TCP connection back to the market to execute split-second trades. The trading firm that gets their trades in first…wins! With millions of dollars riding on daily trades with lightning fast executions you can see how low-latency 10Gbit is a necessity for this business model.

For clarification, low-latency Ethernet is described by a ½ round trip time (RTT) and is the length of time it takes for a signal to be transmitted plus the length of time it takes for the acknowledgment of that signal to be received. That sum is divided by 2 for the average one-way point-to-point latency. For Ethernet this is measured in microseconds (usec.) To give you a reference point, current 1Gbit Ethernet has a typical latency of approximately 20 usec. In the HFT application mentioned, latency was 4-5 usec, a number that I believe will prove acceptable in many HPC applications.

Consider that 10Gbit low-latency (4-5 usec.) financial application we just spoke of and see how it can be applied on a broader sense to HPC applications that have different characteristics, but can still benefit from increased throughput and low latency. For example, a seismic data processor will acquire terabytes of seismic data from the earth, transfer the data to a multi-node cluster and process the data. With 10Gbit low-latency Ethernet in the cluster, the IPC latency between compute nodes in the cluster is reduced which reduces the compute-time for seismic data processing jobs, that could be on the order of hours or even days of time savings. In addition, the 10x throughput improvement results in lower data transfer time from storage to compute cluster. The result is that seismic data reports are delivered quicker, customers are happier, and revenue comes sooner.

The same low-latency and high throughput features apply to other HPC applications, such as plasma physics simulations, life science modeling, and other clustered applications where huge reductions in compute run-times can be realized just by changing the network I/O.

It is well known in the HPC community that low-latency, high-bandwidth systems are critical to success. 1Gbit Ethernet has the mass-market appeal, and comprises a majority of HPC systems, but is not yet seen as a performance leader. I believe the new capabilities offered with 10Gbit: 10x higher data rate, and 5x lower latency will make it successful for HPC systems.

Buyer Beware! Not all 10Gbit server adapters provide very low-latency. Make sure you ask the vendor for the latency specs and any benchmarks they have performed to substantiate their low-latency claims.

About the Author

Tim Dales has over 25 years experience in product management and technical sales of hardware, software and services at BakBone Software, Incentra Solutions, MTI, Emulex, MAI Systems and AT&T. Tim runs IT Brand Pulse Labs which specializes in providing independent, third party testing and lab reports about Unified Networking products.

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!

Talk to Me: Nvidia Claims NLP Inference, Training Records

August 15, 2019

Nvidia says it’s achieved significant advances in conversation natural language processing (NLP) training and inference, enabling more complex, immediate-response interchanges between customers and chatbots. And the co Read more…

By Doug Black

Trump Administration and NIST Issue AI Standards Development Plan

August 14, 2019

Efforts to develop AI are gathering steam fast. On Monday, the White House issued a federal plan to help develop technical standards for AI following up on a mandate contained in the Administration’s AI Executive Order Read more…

By John Russell

Scientists to Tap Exascale Computing to Unlock the Mystery of our Accelerating Universe

August 14, 2019

The universe and everything in it roared to life with the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago. It has continued expanding ever since. While we have a good understanding of the early universe, its fate billions Read more…

By Rob Johnson

AWS Solution Channel

Efficiency and Cost-Optimization for HPC Workloads – AWS Batch and Amazon EC2 Spot Instances

High Performance Computing on AWS leverages the power of cloud computing and the extreme scale it offers to achieve optimal HPC price/performance. With AWS you can right size your services to meet exactly the capacity requirements you need without having to overprovision or compromise capacity. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Bring the combined power of HPC and AI to your business transformation

FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) acceleration cards are not new, as they’ve been commercially available since 1984. Typically, the emphasis around FPGAs has centered on the fact that they’re programmable accelerators, and that they can truly offer workload specific hardware acceleration solutions without requiring custom silicon. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Cloudy with a Chance of Mainframes

[Connect with HPC users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community.]

Rapid rates of change sometimes result in unexpected bedfellows. Read more…

Argonne Supercomputer Accelerates Cancer Prediction Research

August 13, 2019

In the fight against cancer, early prediction, which drastically improves prognoses, is critical. Now, new research by a team from Northwestern University – and accelerated by supercomputing resources at Argonne Nation Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Scientists to Tap Exascale Computing to Unlock the Mystery of our Accelerating Universe

August 14, 2019

The universe and everything in it roared to life with the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago. It has continued expanding ever since. While we have a Read more…

By Rob Johnson

AI is the Next Exascale – Rick Stevens on What that Means and Why It’s Important

August 13, 2019

Twelve years ago the Department of Energy (DOE) was just beginning to explore what an exascale computing program might look like and what it might accomplish. Today, DOE is repeating that process for AI, once again starting with science community town halls to gather input and stimulate conversation. The town hall program... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader and John Russell

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Drives Single-Socket Servers with AMD Epyc Rome CPUs

August 7, 2019

No summer doldrums here. As part of the AMD Epyc Rome launch event in San Francisco today, Lenovo announced two new single-socket servers, the ThinkSystem SR635 Read more…

By Doug Black

Building Diversity and Broader Engagement in the HPC Community

August 7, 2019

Increasing diversity and inclusion in HPC is a community-building effort. Representation of both issues and individuals matters - the more people see HPC in a w Read more…

By AJ Lauer

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

Upcoming NSF Cyberinfrastructure Projects to Support ‘Long-Tail’ Users, AI and Big Data

August 5, 2019

The National Science Foundation is well positioned to support national priorities, as new NSF-funded HPC systems to come online in the upcoming year promise to Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center/XSEDE

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

Qualcomm Invests in RISC-V Startup SiFive

June 7, 2019

Investors are zeroing in on the open standard RISC-V instruction set architecture and the processor intellectual property being developed by a batch of high-flying chip startups. Last fall, Esperanto Technologies announced a $58 million funding round. Read more…

By George Leopold

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