Chelsio Looks to Close Ethernet-InfiniBand Gap

By Michael Feldman

January 24, 2013

This week Chelsio Communications unveiled its latest Ethernet adapter ASIC, which brings 40 gigabit speeds to its RDMA over TCP/IP (iWARP) portfolio. The fifth-generation silicon, dubbed Terminator T5, brings bandwidth and latency within spitting distance of FDR InfiniBand, and according to Chelsio, will actually outperform its IB competition on real-world HPC codes. According to Chelsio CEO and president Kianoosh Naghshineh, “the gap is essentially closed.”

Chelsio T5 ASIC sales are expected to ramp starting in Q2, while adapters based on the new silicon will roll out sometime later in the year. No pricing was given.

The T5, like its T4 predecessor, incorporates a TCP Offload Engine (TOE), iSCSI support, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and Network Address Translation (NAT) into hardware. But it’s the iWARP capability that is of special interest to HPC. While officially known as Internet Wide Area RDMA Protocol, iWARP is essentially RDMA over Ethernet, built on top of the ubiquitous TCP/IP protocol.

Chelsio T5 ASIC Architecture

And like all RDMA-based technology (which includes HPC’s go-to interconnect, InfiniBand), iWARP has the ability to bypass the CPU for data copies that tend to bottleneck the system. Done right, iWARP can offer performance on par with that of InfiniBand, and is eminently suitable for HPC clustering. And since it’s running atop TCP, iWARP is general-purpose enough to work in much larger and more heterogenous networks.

Better yet, since it’s supported by the OpenFabrics Enterprise Distribution (OFED), Linux applications written for InfiniBand can run seamlessly on iWARP-compatible gear. There’s no need to write codes specific to the protocol. The OpenFabrics group appears to be committed to maintaining this support in its software stack for the foreseeable future.

As an industry standard ratified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), iWARP is now backed by Intel, Broadcom, and Chelsio. Although Chelsio is the smallest of the three vendors, at this point it appears to be out ahead of its larger competitors. With the introduction of the T5, it is the only vendor that has married 40 Gig bandwidth and microsecond-level latencies to iWARP-style RDMA. Both Intel and Broadcom have 10 Gig implementations, but they are based on somewhat older technologies.

Intel, which inherited its 10GbE iWARP technology and expertise via its acquisition of NetEffect in 2008 hasn’t talked much about the product roadmap. However, along with Chelsio and Broadcom, Intel has been a driver in the most recent IETF extensions to the iWARP standard.

That suggests the chipmaker is going to move the NetEffect technology into the 40G realm (and beyond) at some point. And since Intel has outlined a network fabric strategy that integrates adapter logic into the CPU, it’s reasonable to assume that iWARP silicon could show up on x86 processors in the not-too-distant future.

None of that seems to worry Chelsio’s Naghshineh. According to him, their TCP offload technology leads the pack, which is probably why they sold 100,000 iWARP ports just in the last 12 months. What the market needs now though is a broader ecosystem, and that includes a reasonable number of iWARP providers committed to the technology. If Intel and Broadcom move ahead with their plans, that could provide the needed critical mass. “I’m very happy they are entering this market,” Naghshineh told HPCwire.

Thus far, most of Chelsio’s success has come from deployments in storage and virtualized servers, where the various network offloads supported by the adapter ASICs are used to save CPU cycles and boost performance. Chelsio’s penetration into the HPC space has been less sure – just a few university and commercial HPC installation to date. That’s due to a variety of factors, including delays in deployment of 10GbE technology overall and a perceived lack of iWARP performance relative to InfiniBand.

From Naghshineh’s perspective, the latter is just a marketing problem. There have been a number of studies that demonstrate even 10G iWARP performance is comparable to InfiniBand on typical HPC applications. One such analysis, performed by Chelsio, shows the its older T4 technology can perform as well or better than Mellanox’s FDR InfiniBand on typical MPI apps: LAMMPS (molecular dynamics), LS-DYNA (finite element analysis), WRF (weather forecasting), and HPL (Linpack).

Despite the FDR gear delivering four times the network bandwidth and half the latency of the Chelsio hardware, the study showed that the T4 iWARP implementation held its own across this application set. And the results seem to indicate that as the application scales up, the advantage starts to tilt in favor of iWARP. Since the newer T5 silicon brings the adapter bandwidth nearly up to FDR speeds (40Gbps versus 56Gbps) and latencies into the coveted sub-microsecond realm, Naghshineh expects the newer silicon to outperform the latest and greatest InfiniBand technology.

According to him, once they reach 100G iWARP in 2015, there will be no difference in performance between that and EDR InfiniBand, even at the hardware level. Naghshineh says that’s because the underlying SerDes (Serializer/Deserializer) architecture is converging across the different network technologies and that will become the common denominator determining performance.

Since Ethernet has the much larger ecosystem of switches, cables, optical modules, and software relative to InfiniBand, the economies of scale will naturally favor the high-volume solution, he maintains. And if performance and price are truly no longer differentiators between the two technologies, HPC users will come around. “InfiniBand has been a good solution to date, says Naghshineh. “It made sense to use it, but now the gap is essentially closed.”

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

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

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

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