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Event showcases interconnect trends

Posted: 24 Aug 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:interconnects? supercomputers? data centers?

The Hot Interconnects event this week is bringing together researchers from China, Japan and the U.S. to showcase their supercomputer interconnects.

Japan's Fujitsu will detail the Tofu interconnect used in the K computer. The K computer was ranked last June as the world's fastest system at 8 petaflops on the Linpack benchmark. For the first time, China researchers will describe Galaxy, the network used inside their Tianhe-1a system that held the top spot last year at 2.5 petaflops. IBM, on the other hand, will reveal the features of the interconnect used in its Sequoia supercomputer. When completed in 2012, the Sequoia computer is expected to deliver 20 petaflops.

All three networks use roughly similar concepts. The IBM interconnect uses a five-dimension torus structure, Japan's Tofu uses a 6D torus/mesh network and China uses a hierarchical fat tree.

The highly complex nets emerge at a time when large data centers are simplifying their network structures to reduce complexity and cost.

"In ten years there could be supercomputer networks using 17 degrees of torus, but data centers are trying to converge on one link, they are trying to be as flat as possible," said Torsten Hoefler, a researcher at the University of Illinois and technical co-chair of the event.

The trend represents a 180-degree turn. Years ago data centers adopted the kind of clustering interconnects widely used in supercomputers as a cheap and effective way of building out large, powerful systems based on networks of many small nodes.

Fabrizo Petrini

Petrini: The trend we see is for efficacy reasons networks are becoming smarter, and more of the networking stack is moving into the network chip

The network in the IBM Sequoia system is expect to break new ground in delivering high bandwidth at very low power consumption levels. To achieve that goal, IBM's interconnect chip uses a multicore messaging unit and special packaging techniques to be described at the event.

The China Galaxy and Japan Tofu networksand other interconnects described at the eventall pack increasing amounts of intelligence into the network. They handle in hardware functions such as routine queuing and adding floating point numbers stored in data packets to boost performance and lower power consumption.

"The trend we see is for efficacy reasons networks are becoming smarter, and more of the networking stack is moving into the network chipeven parts of the message-passing interface library," said Fabrizio Petrini, chairman of the event and a researcher at IBM.

"You can execute algorithms in the network in nanoseconds at line ratethis is very powerful and fast compared to sending operations to the compute node," said Petrini.

At Hot Interconnects event, supercomputer designers share thoughts about future networks to enable systems to hit tens of petaflops and even eventually crack the exascale performance barrier.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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