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Durham University selects Rockport's switchless network

Rockport Networks has announced that Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) has selected the Rockport Switchless Network as part of the ExCALIBUR program around new networking technologies for its COSMA7 supercomputer at the DiRAC HPC facility. 

The COSMA7 cluster and its 232 Rockport nodes will provide Durham University, DiRAC and the ExCALIBUR program with insight into the benefit of reduced congestion as they model exascale workloads and use codes to run on future exascale systems.

Dr Alastair Basden, DiRAC/Durham University, technical manager of COSMA HPC Cluster commented:  ‘We’re always on the hunt for advanced technologies with the potential to improve the performance and reliability of the advanced computing workloads we run. Based on the results and our first experience with Rockport’s switchless architecture we were confident in our choice to improve our exascale modelling performance – all supported by the right economics.’

With Rockport’s switchless architecture, Durham hopes to maximise its investment in HPC infrastructure by overcoming switch-intensive networking tradeoffs while enabling elastic scale, and simplifying operations required for performance-intensive workloads. Rockport’s fully distributed network fabric delivers better performance, resource utilisation and network economics by overcoming the congestion bottlenecks associated with traditional switch-based networks.

The ICC’s massively parallel performance- and data-intensive research into dark matter and energy, black holes, planet formation and collisions require tremendous computational power where traditionally the interconnect becomes a limiting factor. Interconnect-related performance and congestion challenges experienced when processing advanced computing workloads result in unpredictable completion times, and under-utilisation of expensive compute and storage resources.

After an initial Rockport proof-of-concept deployment in the Durham Intelligent NIC Environment (DINE) supercomputer, the university quickly saw Rockport’s technology as a breakthrough way to address congestion -- delivering workload completion time under load equal to or better than InfiniBand.

The COSMA7 Rockport installation is supported by new funding from DiRAC and from the ExCALIBUR Hardware & Enabling Software (H&ES) program that evaluates next-generation high-performance technologies for the highest-priority fields in UK research.

COSMA7 is helping scientists analyse space’s biggest mysteries including dark energy, black holes, and the origins of the universe. By deploying the Rockport Switchless Network in COSMA7, ICC researchers and scientists around the world can experience the power of Rockport’s architecture, avoiding research delays, and to better equip them to create complex simulations of the universe. Rockport delivers deep insights into how codes are performing and faster time to results over traditional switch-based networks.

The Rockport Switchless Network distributes the network switching function to its COSMA7 endpoint devices (nodes) which become the network. By eliminating layers of switches, the Rockport network ensures compute and storage resources are no longer starving for data, and researchers have more predictability regarding workload completion time.

Rethinking network switches creates an opportunity to leverage direct interconnect topologies that provide a connectivity mesh in which every network endpoint can efficiently forward traffic to every other endpoint. The Rockport Switchless Network is a distributed, highly reliable, high-performance interconnect providing pre-wired supercomputer topologies through a standard plug-and-play Ethernet interface.

Durham especially appreciated the simplicity and the intuitive look inside the network that Rockport’s Autonomous Network Manager (ANM) provides. ANM provides a holistic view and deep insight of the active network. The ICC sees end-to-end traffic flows and can troubleshoot network performance in near realtime – a level of transparency that has long been lacking in the industry.

Matthew Williams, CTO, Rockport Networks stated: ‘The expansion of our network at the ICC’s DiRAC HPC cluster is very exciting for our team because it proved there is no need to compromise when it comes to performance and throughput. Tackling congestion has moved beyond provisioning more switches to throw bandwidth at the problem. Sophisticated control and architecture means the customer is no longer at the mercy of the bottlenecks their network infrastructure creates.’

Rockport has also joined the Technology Providers Panel (TPP) formed to allow ExCALIBUR’s H&ES program to interact and collaborate with technology providers in a strategic manner to increase the efficacy and efficiency of their projects.


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