InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

By Tiffany Trader

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention–deservedly so–but more than ever, the network plays a crucial role. While fast, performant interconnects have always been a critical enabler of HPC machinery, that is increasingly the case in the age of heterogeneous computing architectures. By the latest edition of the Top500 released at ISC in Frankfurt last month, it can be seen that while InfiniBand is the second most-used internal system interconnect technology on the list, trailing Ethernet (140 to 247), IB continues to connect the majority of Top500 list HPC systems.

InfiniBand technology is used in the top three fastest systems, including the new Linpack leader Summit at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and nearly 60 percent of the HPC category. These are systems teased out by Mellanox as being used for actual high-performance computing applications rather than cloud/Web workloads. The InfiniBand Trade Association notes that the HPC category has the requirement of “high bandwidth and compute efficiency for processing massive, complex data sets.” By its measure, nearly half of the platforms on the Top500 list can be categorized as non-HPC application platforms (mostly Ethernet-based).

Of the twenty-seven countries that submitted to the June 2018 Top500 list, InfiniBand is used in half of the countries’ number-one HPC systems–including US, China, Japan and 11 more (see article notes for complete list)–accounting for nearly 78 percent of total “number-one” flops. (Note: the top-ranked machines in Brazil, Ireland and the Netherlands are Ethernet-based cloud systems, built by Lenovo.)

Interconnect share in top 100, top 200, top 300, etc., excluding non-HPC systems (chart prepared by Mellanox using data from June 2018 Top500 list)

Out of the total 500 grouping, Mellanox technology connects 216 systems, a 13 percent jump in system share from six months prior. InfiniBand, however, continues to lose ground to Ethernet as non-traditional “supercomputers” from the Web and cloud sphere continue to enter the list. There are currently 140 InfiniBand machines (including Sunway in China, which employs a semi-custom variant of Mellanox InfiniBand), down nearly 15 percent from November’s total 164 systems. 247 systems on the latest list use some manner of Ethernet (with Mellanox counting 76 of these), up from 228 in November, an 8 percent climb.

Intel’s Omni-Path Architecture (OPA) is the interconnect on 39 machines, and 48 systems make use of Cray (Aries/Gemini) technology. That leaves 26 systems using some other flavor of custom/proprietary interconnect (BlueGene, Fujitsu Tofu, Bull BXI, NUDT’s TH Express-2, etc).

To a great extent, InfiniBand’s prominence in Top500-class HPC systems is a question of available alternatives. OPA has made a decent showing since its debut two-and-a-half years ago and is a credible challenger, but Mellanox is ahead in 200 Gpbs technology readiness. The InfiniBand vendor says it will begin shipping its 200 Gbps HDR adapters and switches this year, while Intel’s next-generation interconnect, OPA200, is not expected until 2019.

In discussing Mellanox’s strategy at ISC, Mellanox’s Scot Shultz emphasized the company’s offloading design approach, its ongoing effort to push more intelligence into the network to reduce the burden on system CPUs. Workload requirements, standardization, tools, user comfort and confidence–and to some extent price–certainly all play a role in system network selection.

Mellanox, which has faced scrutiny from activist investor Starboard around its technology R&D investment, is enjoying a positive earnings trend in 2018. In its second quarter ending June 30, 2018, Mellanox recorded revenue of $268.5 million, an increase of 26.7 percent, compared to $212.0 million in the second quarter of 2017. Half-way through 2018, Mellanox is up 29.7 percent year-over-year ($519.5 million for the first half of 2018, compared to $400.6 million for the same period last year).

“We continue to see strong traction with our 25 gigabit per second and above solutions as they become the preferred solution of choice in hyperscale, cloud, high performance computing, artificial intelligence, storage, financial services and other markets across the globe,” stated Eyal Waldman, president and CEO of Mellanox Technologies. “Our Ethernet revenue grew 81 percent year-over-year driven by network adapter and switch growth with hyperscale and OEM customers. We are proud to see our InfiniBand solutions accelerate the world’s top three, and four of the top five supercomputers, as seen in the recently published TOP500 supercomputers list. Our performance in the second quarter further shows the benefit of our investment in diversifying our revenue base and the operational focus that is driving our higher profitability.”

Mellanox reached an agreement with Starboard in June.

Latest Mellanox number-one HPC machines by country:

USA: Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Summit
China: National Supercomputer Center in Wuxi – TaihuLight
Japan: AIST – AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI)
Italy: Exploration & Production Eni S.p.A. – HPC4
Germany: Forschungszentrum Juelich – JUWELS Module 1
Canada: University of Toronto – Niagara
Russia: Moscow State University – Lomonosov 2
Australia: National Computational Infrastructure National Facility – Raijin
Poland: Cyfronet – Prometheus
Czech Republic: IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center – Salomon
Netherlands: SURFsara – Cartesius 2
South Africa: Centre for High Performance Computing – Lengau
Singapore: National Supercomputing Centre Singapore – NSCC
Norway: UNINETT Sigma2 AS – Fram

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!

RPI Powers Up ‘AiMOS’ AI Supercomputer

December 11, 2019

Designed to push the frontiers of computing chip and systems performance optimized for AI workloads, an 8 petaflops (Linpack) IBM Power9-based supercomputer has been unveiled in upstate New York that will be used by IBM Read more…

By Doug Black

At SC19: Developing a Digital Twin

December 11, 2019

In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location to location. In such a world, there will also be a digita Read more…

By Aaron Dubrow

Supercomputers Help Predict Carbon Dioxide Levels

December 10, 2019

The Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems – its lands, forests, jungles and so on – are crucial “sinks” for atmospheric carbon, holding nearly 30 percent of our annual CO2 emissions as they breathe in the carbon-rich Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Finally! SC19 Competitors Live and in Color!

December 10, 2019

You know the saying “better late than never”? That’s how my cluster competition coverage is faring this year. With SC19 coming late in November, quickly followed by my annual trip to South Africa to cover their clu Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel’s Jim Clarke on its New Cryo-controller and why Intel isn’t Late to the Quantum Party

December 9, 2019

Intel today introduced the ‘first-of-its-kind’ cryo-controller chip for quantum computing and previewed a cryo-prober tool for characterizing quantum processor chips. The new controller is a mixed-signal SoC named Ho Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

GPU Scheduling and Resource Accounting: The Key to an Efficient AI Data Center

[Connect with LSF users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community!]

GPUs are the new CPUs

GPUs have become a staple technology in modern HPC and AI data centers. Read more…

What’s New in HPC Research: Natural Gas, Precision Agriculture, Neural Networks and More

December 6, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

RPI Powers Up ‘AiMOS’ AI Supercomputer

December 11, 2019

Designed to push the frontiers of computing chip and systems performance optimized for AI workloads, an 8 petaflops (Linpack) IBM Power9-based supercomputer has Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel’s Jim Clarke on its New Cryo-controller and why Intel isn’t Late to the Quantum Party

December 9, 2019

Intel today introduced the ‘first-of-its-kind’ cryo-controller chip for quantum computing and previewed a cryo-prober tool for characterizing quantum proces Read more…

By John Russell

On the Spack Track @SC19

December 5, 2019

At the annual supercomputing conference, SC19 in Denver, Colorado, there were Spack events each day of the conference. As a reflection of its grassroots heritage, nine sessions were planned by more than a dozen thought leaders from seven organizations, including three U.S. national Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and Sylabs... Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Debuts 7nm 2nd-Gen Graviton Arm Processor

December 3, 2019

The “x86 Big Bang,” in which market dominance of the venerable Intel CPU has exploded into fragments of processor options suited to varying workloads, has n Read more…

By Doug Black

Ride on the Wild Side – Squyres SC19 Mars Rovers Keynote

December 2, 2019

Reminding us of the deep and enabling connection between HPC and modern science is an important part of the SC Conference mission. And yes, HPC is a science its Read more…

By John Russell

NSCI Update – Adapting to a Changing Landscape

December 2, 2019

It was November of 2017 when we last visited the topic of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). As you will recall, the NSCI was started with an Executive Order (E.O. No. 13702), that was issued by President Obama in July of 2015 and was followed by a Strategic Plan that was released in July of 2016. The question for November of 2017... Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Tsinghua University Racks Up Its Ninth Student Cluster Championship Win at SC19

November 27, 2019

Tsinghua University has done it again. At SC19 last week, the eight-time gold medal-winner team took home the top prize in the 2019 Student Cluster Competition Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour


Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cerebras to Supply DOE with Wafer-Scale AI Supercomputing Technology

September 17, 2019

Cerebras Systems, which debuted its wafer-scale AI silicon at Hot Chips last month, has entered into a multi-year partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of a larger collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

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