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!

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

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

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Object Storage is the Ideal Storage Method for CME Companies

The communications, media, and entertainment (CME) sector is experiencing a massive paradigm shift driven by rising data volumes and the demand for high-performance data analytics. Read more…

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 16, 2017)

February 16, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Alexander Named Dep. Dir. of Brookhaven Computational Initiative

February 15, 2017

Francis Alexander, a physicist with extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research, has been named Deputy Director of the Computational Science Initiative at the U.S. Read more…

Here’s What a Neural Net Looks Like On the Inside

February 15, 2017

Ever wonder what the inside of a machine learning model looks like? Today Graphcore released fascinating images that show how the computational graph concept maps to a new graph processor and graph programming framework it’s creating. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

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

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

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

Cray Posts Best-Ever Quarter, Visibility Still Limited

February 10, 2017

On its Wednesday earnings call, Cray announced the largest revenue quarter in the company’s history and the second-highest revenue year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Cloud Startup Launches ‘App Store’ for HPC Workflows

February 9, 2017

“Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

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

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. 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

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

KNUPATH Hermosa-based Commercial Boards Expected in Q1 2017

December 15, 2016

Last June tech start-up KnuEdge emerged from stealth mode to begin spreading the word about its new processor and fabric technology that’s been roughly a decade in the making. Read more…

By John Russell

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