Intel thinks integration as it moves toward exascale

Intel is taking steps to integrate fabric controllers into processors, starting with the Infiniband fabric

By , IDG News Service |  Networking, Intel, supercomputers

Integrating the controller reduces the number of components on a motherboard. It also creates building blocks for large clusters in which fewer connections need to be established.

"You're not going off-chip for that first step to talk to the network controller. You can do it all on-chip," McCarron said.

Intel has been offering networking components for years, but its fabric business gained prominence when the company acquired Ethernet switching specialist Fulcrum Microsystems, the Infiniband assets from Qlogic early last year, and HPC interconnect assets from Cray in April last year.

The acquisitions were considered shrew d, giving Intel a range of products that are key to supercomputers, including processors, interconnects, networking and storage. Intel already offers the Xeon Phi co-processor, which has up to 60 cores, for supercomputers and that works alongside Xeon server CPUs.

Intel is initially focusing on integrating Infiniband, a high-speed interconnect used in supercomputers as an alternative to Ethernet and Fibre Channel. Intel recently updated its TrueScale line of products, which is the first refresh of products originally acquired from Qlogic.

The new TrueScale line brings the controller closer to the processor while improving performance via software-based fabric management and an additional card to provide more communication lanes. The new product can extend to 10,000 ports, and even more through specialized hardware, Yaworski said. The improvements can help speed up tasks such as computational fluid dynamics, which is key in designing aircraft.

TrueScale is designed for the Xeon E5-2600 processor lineup code-named Romley, which is based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture. The TrueScale products includes specialized chips that connect the host to the fabric, and also networking equipment such as adapters, switches, software and cables.

The company has an added advantage of researching and manufacturing its products, which helps in effective integration at the processor level, Yaworski said.

"We are uniquely positioned to make this connection between the fabric and the processor," Yaworski said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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