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!

Hyperion: HPC Server Market Ekes 1 Percent Gain in 2020, Storage Poised for ‘Tipping Point’

May 12, 2021

The HPC User Forum meeting taking place virtually this week (May 11-13) kicked off with Hyperion Research’s market update, covering the 2020 period. Although the HPC server market had been facing a 6.7 percent COVID-re Read more…

Finland’s CSC Chronicles the COVID Research Performed on Its ‘Puhti’ Supercomputer

May 11, 2021

CSC, Finland’s IT Center for Science, is home to a variety of computing resources, including the 1.7 petaflops Puhti supercomputer. The 682-node, Intel Cascade Lake-powered system, which places about halfway down the T Read more…

IBM Debuts Qiskit Runtime for Quantum Computing; Reports Dramatic Speed-up

May 11, 2021

In conjunction with its virtual Think event, IBM today introduced an enhanced Qiskit Runtime Software for quantum computing, which it says demonstrated 120x speedup in simulating molecules. Qiskit is IBM’s quantum soft Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base clock of 2.0GHz – implemented in HPE's single-socket ProLian Read more…

Supercomputer Research Tracks the Loss of the World’s Glaciers

May 7, 2021

British Columbia – which is over twice the size of California – contains around 17,000 glaciers that cover three percent of its landmass. These glaciers are crucial for the Canadian province, which relies on its many Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

FLYING WHALES runs CFD workloads 15 times faster on AWS

FLYING WHALES is a French startup that is developing a 60-ton payload cargo airship for the heavy lift and outsize cargo market. The project was born out of France’s ambition to provide efficient, environmentally friendly transportation for collecting wood in remote areas. Read more…

Meet Dell’s Pete Manca, an HPCwire Person to Watch in 2021

May 7, 2021

Pete Manca heads up Dell's newly formed HPC and AI leadership group. As senior vice president of the integrated solutions engineering team, he is focused on custom design, technology alliances, high-performance computing Read more…

Hyperion: HPC Server Market Ekes 1 Percent Gain in 2020, Storage Poised for ‘Tipping Point’

May 12, 2021

The HPC User Forum meeting taking place virtually this week (May 11-13) kicked off with Hyperion Research’s market update, covering the 2020 period. Although Read more…

IBM Debuts Qiskit Runtime for Quantum Computing; Reports Dramatic Speed-up

May 11, 2021

In conjunction with its virtual Think event, IBM today introduced an enhanced Qiskit Runtime Software for quantum computing, which it says demonstrated 120x spe Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Fast Pass Through (Some of) the Quantum Landscape with ORNL’s Raphael Pooser

May 7, 2021

In a rather remarkable way, and despite the frequent hype, the behind-the-scenes work of developing quantum computing has dramatically accelerated in the past f Read more…

IBM Research Debuts 2nm Test Chip with 50 Billion Transistors

May 6, 2021

IBM Research today announced the successful prototyping of the world's first 2 nanometer chip, fabricated with silicon nanosheet technology on a standard 300mm Read more…

LRZ Announces New Phase of SuperMUC-NG Supercomputer with Intel’s ‘Ponte Vecchio’ GPU

May 5, 2021

At the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) in München, Germany – one of the constituent centers of the Gauss Centre for Supercomputing (GCS) – the SuperMUC Read more…

Crystal Ball Gazing at Nvidia: R&D Chief Bill Dally Talks Targets and Approach

May 4, 2021

There’s no quibbling with Nvidia’s success. Entrenched atop the GPU market, Nvidia has ridden its own inventiveness and growing demand for accelerated computing to meet the needs of HPC and AI. Recently it embarked on an ambitious expansion by acquiring Mellanox (interconnect)... Read more…

Intel Invests $3.5 Billion in New Mexico Fab to Focus on Foveros Packaging Technology

May 3, 2021

Intel announced it is investing $3.5 billion in its Rio Rancho, New Mexico, facility to support its advanced 3D manufacturing and packaging technology, Foveros. Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

CERN Is Betting Big on Exascale

April 1, 2021

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) involves 23 countries, 15,000 researchers, billions of dollars a year, and the biggest machine in the worl Read more…

HPE Launches Storage Line Loaded with IBM’s Spectrum Scale File System

April 6, 2021

HPE today launched a new family of storage solutions bundled with IBM’s Spectrum Scale Erasure Code Edition parallel file system (description below) and featu Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

Quantum Computer Start-up IonQ Plans IPO via SPAC

March 8, 2021

IonQ, a Maryland-based quantum computing start-up working with ion trap technology, plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) merger a Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Can Deep Learning Replace Numerical Weather Prediction?

March 3, 2021

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a mainstay of supercomputing. Some of the first applications of the first supercomputers dealt with climate modeling, and Read more…

AMD Launches Epyc ‘Milan’ with 19 SKUs for HPC, Enterprise and Hyperscale

March 15, 2021

At a virtual launch event held today (Monday), AMD revealed its third-generation Epyc “Milan” CPU lineup: a set of 19 SKUs -- including the flagship 64-core, 280-watt 7763 part --  aimed at HPC, enterprise and cloud workloads. Notably, the third-gen Epyc Milan chips achieve 19 percent... Read more…

Livermore’s El Capitan Supercomputer to Debut HPE ‘Rabbit’ Near Node Local Storage

February 18, 2021

A near node local storage innovation called Rabbit factored heavily into Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s decision to select Cray’s proposal for its CORAL-2 machine, the lab’s first exascale-class supercomputer, El Capitan. Details of this new storage technology were revealed... Read more…

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

The History of Supercomputing vs. COVID-19

March 9, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a greater challenge to the high-performance computing community than any before. HPCwire's coverage of the supercomputing response t Read more…

HPE Names Justin Hotard New HPC Chief as Pete Ungaro Departs

March 2, 2021

HPE CEO Antonio Neri announced today (March 2, 2021) the appointment of Justin Hotard as general manager of HPC, mission critical solutions and labs, effective Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire