Intel Fabrics Could Put the Squeeze On Mellanox

By Michael Feldman

September 25, 2012

It’s been a good year for interconnect-maker Mellanox. The company has been riding high in 2012, thanks in large part to its dominant position in the InfiniBand marketplace and the surge in FDR (fourteen data rate) sales over the last several months. As a result, the company’s revenue and stock has soared to all time highs. But with Intel now eyeing the lucrative high performance interconnect market, Mellanox may soon face a formidable challenge as InfiniBand kingpin.

Intel, as you’ll remember, plunked down $125 million in January to buy QLogic’s InfiniBand business. The acquisition was part of a larger strategy to build up a stable of high performance interconnect technology, which also included Cray’s supercomputing fabric and Fulcrum’s Ethernet switch ASICs. QLogic was always a minority player in the InfiniBand space next to Mellanox and, thus far, Intel’s ownership of the technology has not changed that dynamic.

Mellanox’s dominance of the InfiniBand space has been accelerating of late, underscored by the lack of an FDR solution from QLogic. Although FDR was on the company’s roadmap a year ago, Intel has not made any moves suggesting they would ever deliver products based on the faster technology. It’s quite possible that the chipmaker will skip FDR entirely and go straight to EDR, the next iteration of InfiniBand that promises twice the bandwidth — 104 Gbps in 4 lanes.

Ironically, Intel has been Mellanox’s best friend lately. The Romley platform, with the latest “Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs, provides built-in support of PCIe Gen3, which delivers the necessary bandwidth to accommodate FDR speeds. It was the deployment of Sandy Bridge-based HPC machinery over the last several months that Mellanox was able to parlay into a couple of record-breaking quarters of sales. And its stock, which average around $20 per share for the most of the company’s existence, is now hovering above the $100 mark.

Intel, though, is playing the long game here. Recently they laid out a strategy in which they would integrate the interconnect interface logic (essentially the network interface card, or NIC) onto the CPU. The chipmaker intends to implement this new model across all x86 chips intended for datacenter duty, everything from web servers to supercomputers. Placing a fabric controller on the processor would bring the interconnect pipes much closer to the compute engines, increasing energy-efficiency, performance and scalability. It would also reduce system cost by removing the need for a discrete NIC.

With Ethernet, InfiniBand and Cray’s interconnect IP under one roof, Intel has the capability to support an array of on-chip fabrics. Although the consummation of a interconnect-processor marriage for any of these technologies is probably at least a few years away, it has the potential to reshape the landscape of the networking/interconnect market. Potentially, every NIC-maker would be threatened by such a development, inasmuch as it would make discrete network cards obsolete.

But there’s one vendor that is most likely to affected first and more deeply — Mellanox. Given its dominant position in the InfiniBand NIC market, the company would could be directly threatened by a successful CPU-InfiniBand fabric integration. And since QLogic TrueScale logic glued to a Xeon would seem like a natural implementation for an initial product, Mellanox could be forced to defend its turf on a rather uneven playing field.

If Mellanox wanted to counter Intel head-on, it could partner with another processor vendor — say, for example, AMD — and license its fabric logic for on-chip integration. There’s no indication that Mellanox is considering such a strategy. In fact, in speaking with the company, there are no plans in place — at least no public ones — to mirror Intel’s on-chip integration model.

According to Gilad Shainer, vice president of market development at Mellanox, they’re laser focused on their product roadmap, which at this point only involves discrete network adapter cards. That’s understandable given the success they’ve been enjoying as the sole source of FDR InfiniBand, and their plans to maintain that exclusivity with EDR InfiniBand in 2014. “Mellanox is not a company that reacts to things,” Shainer told HPCwire. “It’s a company that drives things.”

Shainer also pointed out that fabric integration is not without its drawbacks. For example, CPU and interconnect roadmaps are not really that well-aligned. A given CPU platform could pass through multiple generations of network adapter cards. Once you’ve hardwired the interconnect to the processor, you’ve lost the flexibility that a discrete card could deliver.

Some of the loss in flexibility could be made up by clever design. The on-chip fabric logic could be architected to support multiple interconnect configurations or even multiple protocols — for example, Ethernet and InfiniBand, as Mellanox itself does with its ConnectX discrete adapters and Virtual Protocol Interconnect (VPI) technology. Intel hasn’t revealed, or more likely hasn’t decided, the nature of its first fabric integration products. But such flexibility issues are likely to be at the forefront of any designs.

One thing that both Intel and Mellanox seem to agree on is that interconnects will be playing a much more central role in computing in the years ahead. Whether you’re talking about hyperscale datacenters or exascale supercomputers, the fabric connecting the computing and storage components will be integral into the workings of these machines. Whether that turns out to be an on-chip integrated solution or not remains to be seen.


Related Articles:

Intel Weaves Strategy To Put Interconnect Fabrics On Chip

Mellanox Roars Through Second Quarter As InfiniBand Revenue Takes Off

Intel Makes a Deal for Cray’s Interconnect Assets

 

Intel Makes a Deal for Cray’s Interconnect Assets

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!

Quantum Rolls – DOE Dishes $218M; NSF Awards $31M; US Releases ‘Strategic Overview’

September 24, 2018

It was quite a day for U.S. quantum computing. In conjunction with the White House Summit on Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Information Science (QIS) held today, the Department of Energy announced $218 million Read more…

By John Russell

Russian and American Scientists Achieve 50% Increase in Data Transmission Speed

September 20, 2018

As high-performance computing becomes increasingly data-intensive and the demand for shorter turnaround times grows, data transfer speed becomes an ever more important bottleneck. Now, in an article published in IEEE Tra Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM to Brand Rescale’s HPC-in-Cloud Platform

September 20, 2018

HPC (or big compute)-in-the-cloud platform provider Rescale has formalized the work it’s been doing in partnership with public cloud vendors by announcing its Powered by Rescale program – with IBM as its first named Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Clouds Over the Ocean – a Healthcare Perspective

Advances in precision medicine, genomics, and imaging; the widespread adoption of electronic health records; and the proliferation of medical Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices are resulting in an explosion of structured and unstructured healthcare-related data. Read more…

Democratization of HPC Part 1: Simulation Sheds Light on Building Dispute

September 20, 2018

This is the first of three articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of High Performance Computing especially in new user communities and application areas. Major reasons for this trend are the ongoing improvements i Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

Quantum Rolls – DOE Dishes $218M; NSF Awards $31M; US Releases ‘Strategic Overview’

September 24, 2018

It was quite a day for U.S. quantum computing. In conjunction with the White House Summit on Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Information Science (QIS) Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU- Read more…

By George Leopold

DeepSense Combines HPC and AI to Bolster Canada’s Ocean Economy

September 13, 2018

We often hear scientists say that we know less than 10 percent of the life of the oceans. This week, IBM and a group of Canadian industry and government partner Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Rigetti (and Others) Pursuit of Quantum Advantage

September 11, 2018

Remember ‘quantum supremacy’, the much-touted but little-loved idea that the age of quantum computing would be signaled when quantum computers could tackle Read more…

By John Russell

How FPGAs Accelerate Financial Services Workloads

September 11, 2018

While FSI companies are unlikely, for competitive reasons, to disclose their FPGA strategies, James Reinders offers insights into the case for FPGAs as accelerators for FSI by discussing performance, power, size, latency, jitter and inline processing. Read more…

By James Reinders

Update from Gregory Kurtzer on Singularity’s Push into FS and the Enterprise

September 11, 2018

Container technology is hardly new but it has undergone rapid evolution in the HPC space in recent years to accommodate traditional science workloads and HPC systems requirements. While Docker containers continue to dominate in the enterprise, other variants are becoming important and one alternative with distinctly HPC roots – Singularity – is making an enterprise push targeting advanced scale workload inclusive of HPC. Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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