Myricom Sees Ethernet Light

Ethernet gear from 'specialty networking' outfit surfaces in products and projects

May 13, 2006

3 Min Read
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Myricom is beginning to see results from its decision last year to embrace Ethernet along with its proprietary high-speed interconnect technology.

Myricom last June launched Myri-10G, a network that adds 10-Gbit/s Ethernet functionality and interoperability to the vendor's Myrinet gear. (See High-Speed Links Favor Ethernet and Myricom Brings HPC to Ethernet.) With 10-GigE making strides and InfiniBand finally showing life, Myricom CEO Chuck Seitz realized being completely proprietary wasn't going to cut it.

We saw the writing on the wall some time ago that there are two networks in the world -- Ethernet and Ether-not,” Seitz quips. “We said, ‘OK, enough of being in the specialty networking business.’ There’s this whole other universe in storage, and you’ll see Myrinet more and more in data centers.”

Although it's still too early to know how the move will pan out, Seitz says two recent bits of news show his strategy is paying off. Myri-10G switches will be included in a Distributed ASCSI Supercomputer (DAS-3) grid connecting Linux supercomputing clusters at five universities in the Netherlands. Although Myrinet was used in two earlier DAS projects, its Ethernet support helped it retain its spot after it was re-evaluated against other high-speed interconnects for the coming project.

The DAS-3 project is in Myricom's high-performance computing (HPC) sweet spot. The grid, scheduled to go online in December, will let all computers connected to it work as one large computer to help the universities better share research.Treating the clusters as one big system requires the WAN interconnecting the universities to work as if it were a local network. That's not easy, says Henry Bal, a computer science professor at Vrije Universiteit, one of the institutions involved in the project.

"The problem is, WANs are relatively very slow compared to local networks, so you have to do all sorts of fancy optimizations,"Bal says.

That's where Myrinet comes in. Each cluster in the DAS-3 grid includes a Myri-10G switch, with Myri-10G PCI-Express cards in each server. The Myri-10G switch connects the servers to an optical network backbone.

Bal says Myricom outperformed InfiniBand in testing, plus its support for 10-GigE and Myricom's Myrinet Express protocol lets the grid use one device where it needed two before. Myri-10G connects to the local network through Ethernet and works over the WAN through Myrinet.

"Myricom was so much ahead of InfiniBand for wide-area interconnects," Bal says. "And before, you needed two devices on each side, one fast local connection, and a separate router for the WAN. That's far more expensive and more complicated."Myri-10G network interface cards (NICs) also found their way into a 10-GigE Galaxy NAS system recently launched by Rorke Data for video storage. (See Rorke Unveils 10GigE NAS and Tut Shows MPEG-4.) By moving into high-performance NAS, Myrinet is creeping into a market where InfiniBand and 10-Gigabit Ethernet have recently begun showing up. (See Isilon Embraces InfiniBand and BlueArc Beefs Up Titan.)

Analyst Jonathan Eunice of Illuminata says Myricom's support for Ethernet should help it win support for certain high-performance applications, but not necessarily in HPC environments.

"Myricom has begun to embrace 10-GigE connections," Eunice says. "Given that they well understand how to do high-bandwidth, low-latency networking, Myricom should prove a good supplier in this space. That's especially true for performance-sensitive apps like video editing and broadcast."

But he says InfiniBand has been catching up in HPC, where Myrinet's success is still tied to its proprietary Myrinet protocol.

"InfiniBand is doing pretty well in HPC and cluster applications, taking some opportunities that Myricom would historically have had an excellent shot at," Eunice says. "Myri-10G helps Myricom avoid the proprietary network issue, and 10 GigE in general is an important InfiniBand competitor, but I don't see Myri-10G as specifically or energetically displacing InfiniBand."— Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Illuminata Inc.

  • Myricom Inc.

  • Rorke Data Inc.

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