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Revolutionary Thinking, Evolutionary Technology – How Intel's Bet on Fabric Integration will Enable Exaflops

In this special guest feature from The Exascale Report, Mike Bernhardt writes that Intel is placing a big bet on fabric integration on its journey to Exascale.

We already know exascale-class systems will be far too expensive to make them commercially available. And we’ve heard several years of discussion on the staggering power requirements an exaFLOPS system would require. So, is anyone doing anything creative to get past these barriers?

With a clever brand most of us marketing types can really appreciate, Intel’s True Scale Fabric represents an architectural change that can potentially benefit Cloud Computing, Big Data, HPC, and establish a path toward exascale.
The architectural change Intel is going for here is to bring the processor and the controller closer together. There’s more to it of course including some specialized hardware and software as one would expect, but the net effect according to Intel will be a reduction of power consumption and the density of the servers.

The move in this direction did not happen overnight. Intel has been working on this strategy for quite some time. Intel’s portfolio of assets to support this integration of storage and network controllers with Intel’s processors has been significantly enhanced with its acquisition of HPC interconnect technology from Cray, the acquisition of the Ethernet switching company, Fulcrum
Microsystems, and pulling in the InfiniBand assets of QLogic.

Joe Yaworski, Intel’s Fabric Product Marketing Manager, recently presented five key points to emphasize Intel’s wisdom in moving in this direction:

  • Datacenter (HPC & Cloud) growth requires new innovations to meet the growing demand and performance requirements
  • Fabrics are becoming the next bottleneck to an unrelenting need for data in cloud and HPC workloads
  • Fabric integration will be required to address the growing need for bandwidth, scalability, power and system density
  • Intel is uniquely positioned with its acquisitions of – Cray interconnect group, QLogic InfiniBand program and products and Fulcrum assets to meet the need with fabrics technology innovation and CPU platform integration in the future
  • One of the solutions for the future may be moving the fabric controller closer to the CPU. This will provide the potential for meeting high bandwidth and performance goals, while at the same time delivering the highest possible energy efficiency

For The Exascale Report, we do not consider this article in the category of a product announcement as any products based on such an integrated fabric are still in the future. We do see this as an important path to be explored, and we will continue to monitor and report on this topic.

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