November 13, 2006
In high performance computing (HPC), the ability to achieve high-speed data transfer at low cost is key. One way of accomplishing this task is to employ 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) technology, a solution that has gained a strong foothold in the networking industry.
Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc. (FCPA) recently announced its third generation, ultra-low latency series of 10 Gb Ethernet switches. In the following interview, Vic Herring, senior director, New Products Group, discusses the importance of 10 GbE in HPC applications, and how FCPA is playing a leading role in this rapidly expanding market.
GRIDtoday: What role does FCPA play in High Performance Computing (HPC)?
VIC HERRING: The market that FCPA is focusing on with our 10 Gb Ethernet Switches is the small to medium-sized HPC clusters. These groups are enterprise class, as opposed to the larger, more extreme clusters that are greater than 100 nodes. FCPA is using a fixed, 1U switch for up to 20 node clusters. We also have the capability of connecting multiple switches together to achieve even higher count clusters.
Gt: Why do you think 10 Gb Ethernet is a better choice?
HERRING: Ethernet is a better solution because it’s the ubiquitous network – the same IT person that installed the 1Gb network can still manage the 10 Gb network. Typically, systems have a LAN (Local Area Network) and a SAN (Storage Area Network) Fibre Channel-based structure, and many companies don’t want to add a third network, such as Infiniband. With 10 GbE, you get economies of scale – everything can go back to a single network. There’s also a technical advantage with 10 GbE, which is its scalability while maintaining performance.
Gt: What are the components needed for a 10 GbE solution?
HERRING: Deploying 10 GbE into HPC clusters requires an Ethernet switch and a Network Interface Card (NIC) connected to high-data traffic servers or a high-end workstation. The type of connection required depends on whether distance within the cluster is important. If the interconnects do not need to exceed 15m, then using a CX4 (copper) interconnect is the most cost-effective technique. If distance is key, than using optical connections and deciding on short reach, long reach, or extra long reach XFP modules (up to 10km) is the best method. Fujitsu supports both connection styles with its XG2000 series.
Gt: How is FCPA making an impact in the 10 GbE market?
HERRING: FCPA has focused on bringing a low latency, high performance switch to the market. In addition, we build our own ASICs, and are on our fourth generation ASIC product. We’ve also just introduced our third generation switch product, the XG2000 series. In the switch arena, Fujitsu is a technology leader, and the XG series is among the lowest latency products in the market. When it comes to overall solution performance in a 1U form factor, it will be tough for the competition to beat us.
Gt: What are some of the advantages of the XG2000 series?
HERRING: The Fujitsu XG2000 series features ultra-low latency at 300ns. They also offer a 3 MB buffer that assists in providing full bandwidth capability on all 20 ports. The switches are low profile, only 1U high. And the XG2000 series features two types: one is a 20-port all XFP solution, while the other is a 16-port CX4 and additional 4-port XFP solution. Additional advantages are high availability, non-blocking throughput performance of 400 Gbps, and dual redundant power supplies and fans.
Gt: Why did FCPA decide to enter into the 10 GbE market?
HERRING: FCPA saw the need for low latency, high performance switching, and the market at the 1 Gb level was very crowded. Fujitsu had the technology and capability to create and support a product that would give us a technological advantage over the competition. FCPA thinks the 10 GbE market will increase significantly, and with our technological expertise we can be a leading player in the layer 2 switching market.
Gt: What are some of the challenges that FCPA has faced in the market?
HERRING: The biggest challenge we faced in the past was having an end-to-end solution that could provide for full 10 Gb grouplets. There were PCI Express back-end issues, as well as cost barriers that needed to be overcome. However, toward the end of 2006, the full solution started to come together. Now we have PCI-Express, NIC cards and the software drivers that enable us to achieve 10 Gb wire speed. Additionally, the price of components has come down dramatically, making the overall solution much more affordable.
Gt: How do you see the 10 GbE market evolving over the next few years?
HERRING: Beginning in the second half of 2007, sales (measured in port count growth) will increase dramatically. One of the key drivers will be pricing. Another factor is that video and multi-core CPUs will require higher bandwidth networks to keep up. And finally, tier one OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) will begin deploying 10 GbE as a standard component, rather than a custom one. With the availability of a 10 Gbase-T solution around the 2008 to 2009 timeframe, the growth of 10 GbE will continue to accelerate.
Gt: What can we expect from FCPA to keep up with this trend?
HERRING: Fujitsu has a very strong roadmap moving forward that will allow us to continue to leverage our technical expertise in our single chip switch ASIC as well as develop switches for non-blocking, low latency applications. The technical roadmap will support growth in the foreseeable future, for at least the next 5 to 6 years.
Gt: Any final comments?
HERRING: Fujitsu has one of the best technological products in the market. With its ultra-low latency, dense port count and high performance, the XG2000 series will be a key player in the fixed switch area. As a market leader in both technology and price/performance, FCPA is positioned well to take a large part of this growing market.
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