Happy New Year, InfiniBand community! I’m writing to you on behalf of the OpenFabrics Alliance (OFA), although I am also a member of the IBTA’s marketing working group. The OFA had many highlights in 2009, many of which may be of interest to InfiniBand vendors and end users. I wanted to review some of the news, events and technology updates from the past year, as well as invite you to our 6th Annual International Sonoma Workshop, taking place March 14-17, 2010.
At the OFA’s Sonoma Workshop in March 2009, OpenFabrics firmed up 40 Gigabit InfiniBand support and 10 Gigabit Ethernet support in the same Linux releases, providing a converged network strategy that leverages the best of both technologies. At the International Supercomputer Conference (ISC) in Germany in June 2009, OFED software was used on the exhibitors’ 40 Gigabit InfiniBand network and then a much larger 120 Gigabit network at SC09 in November.
Also at SC09, the current Top500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputer sites was published. The number of systems on the list that use OpenFabrics software is closely tied to the number of Top500 systems using InfiniBand. For InfiniBand, the numbers on the November 2009 list are as follows: 5 in the Top 10, 64 in the Top 100, and 186 in the Top500. For OpenFabrics, the numbers may be slightly higher because the Top500 does not capture the interconnect used for storage at the sites. One example of this is the Jaguar machine at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which lists “proprietary,” when in fact the system also has a large InfiniBand and OFED-driven storage infrastructure.
Key new members that joined the OFA last year included Cray and Microsoft. These new memberships convey the degree to which OFED has become a de-facto standard for InfiniBand in HPC, where the lowest possible latency brings the most value to the computing and application performance.
There are, of course, significant numbers of sites in the Top500 where legacy 1 Gigabit Ethernet and TCP/IP are still perceived as being sufficient from a cost-performance perspective. OpenFabrics believes that as the cost for 10 Gigabit Ethernet chips on motherboards and NICs come down, many of these sites will consider moving to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. As InfiniBand over Ethernet (commonly referred to as RoCEE) and iWARP are going to be in OFED 1.5.1 together beginning in March 2010, some sites will move to InfiniBand to capture the biggest improvement possible.
OpenIB, predecessor to OpenFabrics, helped in the early adoption of InfiniBand. The existence of free software, fully supporting a variety of vendors’ proprietary hardware, makes it easier for vendors to increase their hardware investments. The end user subsequently is able to purchase more hardware, as nothing needs to be spent on proprietary software to enable the system. This is one open source business model that has evolved, but none of us know if this is sustainable for the long term in HPC, or whether the enterprise and cloud communities will adopt it as well.
Please join me at this years’ OFA Sonoma Workshop where the focus will continue to be on the integrated delivery of both InfiniBand and 10 Gigabit Ethernet support in OFED releases which we believe makes OFED very attractive for cloud and Enterprise Data Centers.
Executive Director, OpenFabrics Alliance