HPC List Shows Interconnect Status

At the world's top supercomputer sites, some interconnects are more popular than others

June 23, 2004

2 Min Read
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An online listing of the world's most powerful high-performance computing (HPC) sites reveals progress -- and the lack thereof -- in interconnect technologies used to link clustered supercomputers.

The latest version of the Top 500 Supercomputer Sites shows Gigabit Ethernet's the world's most popular method for HPC linkage, with Myrinet, the interconnect technology licensed by Myricom Inc. that competes with Infiniband, coming second. InfiniBand itself is growing, though not quite as quickly as its proponents might like.

The number of systems using Gigabit Ethernet grew by nearly 50 percent, and ones using Myrinet grew by roughly 60 percent over the last six months. The number of InfiniBand installations also grew -- from three to ten -- not quite the 15 or 20 predicted by some proponents as recently as April (see Interconnects Look to HPC List).

In contrast, more systems use Quadrics, another InfiniBand competitor, than before, but the scale's still small; and ones that use Hyperplex and Hyperfabric, variations of Myrinet OEM'd by Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), look to have decreased at the top sites.

Figure 1:

At least one observer says the growing popularity of Gigabit Ethernet is attributable to its ability to match the speed of supercomputer processors. "Gigabit Ethernet is at a point relative to processor performance where it does pretty well," says Chuck Seitz, CEO and CTO of Myricom. "Two or three years ago, it was too expensive relative to specialized cluster environments. Two or three years from now, it will be too slow."

Of course, Seitz is mainly interested in Myrinet, which he says will reach 10-Gbit/s by the end of this year. It now runs at 2 to 4 Gbit/s.

Meanwhile, the interconnect that can claim 10 Gbit/s, InfiniBand, is still in a small minority. No worries, says Chuck Foley, executive VP at InfiniCon Systems Inc. "I think that InfiniBand has a pretty strong showing," he says. He defends his earlier estimate of 15 to 20, saying at least three customers missed the deadline for submission to the list, and others who have InfiniBand aren't listed as doing so. (Actually, that's a claim also made by Seitz of Myricom -- about Myrinet.)

The list is due out again in six months. It is updated twice yearly by representatives from the University of Mannheim in Germany; the University of Tennessee; and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in the U.S.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch0

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