Intel Weaves Strategy To Put Interconnect Fabrics On Chip

By Michael Feldman

September 10, 2012

Intel has begun to formulate a strategy that will integrate fabric controllers with its server processors. According to Raj Hazra, general manager of the Technical Computing unit at Intel, the company is planning to use the recently acquired IP from Cray, QLogic and Fulcrum to deliver chips that put what is essentially a NIC onto the processor die. In a recent conversation with Hazra, he outlined their new fabric interconnect strategy.

Intel apparently started thinking along these lines at least a year ago when the company began collecting interconnect technology in earnest. In July 2011, the chipmaker acquired Fulcrum, a maker of Ethernet switch chips. Six months later, it bought QLogic’s InfiniBand adapter and switch business. And then three months after that, Intel brought Cray’s interconnect IP and expertise on board. With the three technologies in hand, the chipmaker now believes it has the makings for a wider play.

As with other types of processor integration, the idea is to deliver more capability, in this case, greater performance, scalability and energy efficiency. According to Hazra, as the scope of distributed computing systems has grown from HPC to the cloud and beyond, interconnect fabrics like Ethernet and InfiniBand have become much more intimate with the processor, or at least, would like to. These fabrics are now an integral part of the systems and applications they connect. “We are seeing the role of the fabric far less like a network, in a loosely coupled sense, and far more like a system bus at the datacenter level,” Hazra told HPCwire.

In that sense, a fabric is just an extension of the system bus and the memory and storage hierarchies that it glues together. But as compute density per server increases, these fabric can become communication bottlenecks. This is especially true in large-scale systems, like supercomputers and datacenter-sized clouds, where the number of nodes can run into the thousands. But even in smaller-scale HPC clusters or data appliances, performance can be limited by interconnect bandwidth and latency.

Putting the fabric controller on the die with the processor could go a long way toward alleviating some of the performance and power issues. For example, giving the controller a direct line to the CPU could deliver more bandwidth along with less latency. And since the system I/O interface (PCIe) would no longer be needed to drive the fabric, power could be significantly reduced — on the order of tens of watts per server. Also, from a system point of view, placing the controller on the processor would eliminate yet another component on the server motherboard, reducing system price and complexity.

The proximity of the fabric logic to the CPU could also make it easier to provide intelligent data movement (exploiting data locality, doing smart prefetching, etc.), inasmuch as programming an on-chip controller is far simpler than managing an external third-party device. In the HPC space, it could, for example, drive a greater adoption of Partitioned Global Address Space (PGAS) languages, which present distributed memory as a unified address space. With more intimate control of the fabric, it should be easier for system software to support such a model.

It’s not just for high performance computing though. Intel is looking to apply fabric integration across all its datacenter offerings (Xeon, Xeon Phi, and Atom processors), which encompass HPC/supercomputers, clouds, enterprise appliances and microservers. Essentially any chip destined for a multi-node system is fair game. Each application area has different requirements — bandwidth, latency, scalability, security, and so on — so it’s unlikely, for example, that Intel will use Cray’s supercomputing interconnect technology in its Atoms and Xeons destined for microservers, or Fulcrum’s 10 GigE IP for exascale-grade Xeons.

What will make all this integration possible is Moore’s Law, the continual shrinking of transistor geometries that enables extra logic and storage to be laid down on the die. At this point, nobody enforces Moore’s Law better than Intel, and combined with their interconnect collection as well as their extensive set of parallel software tools and libraries, the chipmaker is in a rather unique position to bring this new architecture to fruition.

Making the interconnect logic a first-class citizen on the processor, rather than just an I/O device would be a huge paradigm shift for the server market. If successfully executed at Intel, other chip vendors will be forced to follow suit. (AMD is likely already conjuring up something similar with the fabric technology it acquired from SeaMicro.) Meanwhile makers of discrete NICs and host adapter silicon will have to rethink their strategy, perhaps allying themselves with other chipmakers to offer competitive products.

Intel is not ready to talk about specific product plans and timelines, but since Hazra is charged with developing this architecture, it’s reasonable to assume that the processors aimed at HPC will get a good deal of the initial attention. And we probably won’t have to wait for exascale systems at the end of the decade to see some of these fabric controller-equipped chips in the field. According to Hazra, the first such hardware should show up prior to the first exaflop supercomputer deployments.

“Without this integration, many of the challenges around having a scalable, extensible fabric architecture is not going to be possible,” he says. “We think the time has come when this is not only possible, but our intent is to drive this aggressively to make it possible.”

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!

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is built to run artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and, as Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Exascale System for Earth Simulation Introduced

April 23, 2018

After four years of development, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) will be unveiled today and released to the broader scientific community this month. The E3SM project is supported by the Department of Energy Read more…

By Staff

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi 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

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

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Leading Solution Providers

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

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

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

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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