Ohio Opts for iWarp

Ohio Supercomputer Center picks Ammasso's 1-Gbit/s iWarp adapters for research project

August 10, 2005

3 Min Read
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A research center whose mission is to be "Ohio's answer to high performance computing (HPC) and networking" will use 1-Gbit/s iWarp adapters from Ammasso Inc. for faster data retrieval.

Hang on: Isn't iWarp (Internet Wide Area RDMA Protocol) synonymous with 10-Gbit/s data rates? Not this time. The state-funded Ohio Supercomputer Center has put 41 Ammasso 1-Gbit/s Ethernet iWarp adapters in its data center precisely because Ammasso isn't pushing the faster speed.

"Ten-gig switches are really expensive. Ammasso has 1-gig cards out there now," says OSC researcher Dennis Dalessandro. Each of the Ammasso 1100 adapters costs about $495.

Dalessandro wants iWarp now. He and colleagues at OSC's Springfield, Ohio, location -- whose mission includes providing "blue-collar supercomputing" info for state colleges and businesses -- will use the adapters to test connections between clusters and remote hosts.

The Springfield site includes a 33-node Apple Xserve G5 cluster (which in turn is linked to two Cray supercomputers). A 1-Gbit/s Ethernet WAN service links the cluster to OSC's remote-site hosts in Columbus [ed. note: and it doesn't get much more remote than Columbus]. Storage attached to the cluster comprises 150 Tbytes of Fibre Channel gear from IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and DataDirect Networks Inc..Background: Storage networkers and data center managers are looking to iWarp as an interconnect that can perform like InfiniBand but span multiple sites. Today, InfiniBand is unroutable over IP nets, restricting its deployment to local data center interconnections.

IWarp is a set of protocols designed to run RDMA (remote direct memory access) over IP. RDMA is a protocol that allows data to bypass computers' operating systems when it is transmitted from the memory of one server to the memory of another. Since this reduces CPU usage, RDMA is being touted as an efficient, high-speed option for high-performance computing.

Ammasso is one of a tiny crew of iWarp adapter suppliers that includes Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) (through its recent acquisition of Siliquent -- see Broadcom Takes 10-Gig Shortcut) and Chelsio Communications Inc. But it's considered a laggard, since it doesn't focus on 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, but instead is sticking with 1-Gbit/s.

Indeed, Ammasso director of marketing Ken Dennen says 10-Gbit/s is "on the roadmap," but it's not clear when the company will get around to delivering it. Instead, the vendor hopes to have an iSCSI-over-RDMA adapter in 2006 and is focused on lower-speed iWarp for now. Even at 1-Gbit/s, Dennen claims, iWarp can improve data rates on Ethernet WANs by a factor of one-half to five-times current rates. He says Ammasso has more than 100 beta sites for its adapters and at least a "couple dozen" paying customers.

While Ammasso seeks immediate gratification in the nascent iWarp market, experts say widespread iWarp enterprise installations are still in the future. A key issue, according to analyst Bob Wheeler of The Linley Group research firm, is that wares aren't yet proven interoperable. "Until solutions are interoperable, it's difficult to claim iWarp," he says. "Otherwise, it remains a proprietary solution, no different from Myrinet or Quadrics."Ammasso and others formed the tersely named UNH-IOL iWarp Testing Consortium at the University of New Hampshire Research Computing Center last August. Other members include IBM, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), , Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), NetEffect Inc., Neterion Inc., Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW).

So far, nothing definitive has emerged from the group's work.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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