[Beowulf] Mutiple IB networks in one cluster

atchley tds.net atchley at tds.net
Sat Feb 1 08:17:24 PST 2014

On Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 11:27 AM, Prentice Bisbal <
prentice.bisbal at rutgers.edu> wrote:

> Alex,
> On 01/30/2014 07:15 PM, Alex Chekholko wrote:
>> Hi Prentice,
>> Today, IB probably means Mellanox, so why not get their pre-sales
>> engineer to draw you up a fabric configuration for your intended use
>> case?
> Because I've learned that sales people will tell you anything is possible
> with their equipment if it means a sale.
> I posted my question to this list instead of talking to Mellanox
> specifically to get real-world, unbiased information.
>> Certainly you can have a fabric where each host has two links, and
>> then you segregate the different types of traffic on the different
>> links.  But what would that accomplish if they're using the same
>> fabric?
> Doesn't IB use cross-bar switches? If so, the bandwidth between one pair
> of communicating hosts should not be affected by communication between
> another pair of communicating hosts.

The cross-bar switch only guarantees non-blocking if the two ports are on
the same line card (i.e. using the same crossbar). Once you start
traversing multiple crossbars, you are sharing links and can experience

> Certainly you can have totally separate fabrics and each host could
>> have links to one or more of those.
>> If this was Ethernet, you'd comparing separate networks vs multiple
>> interfaces on the same network vs bonded interfaces on the same
>> network.  Not all the concepts translate directly, the main one being
>> the default network layout, Mellanox will suggest a strict fat tree.
>> Furthermore, your question really just comes down to performance.
>> Leave IB out of it.  You're asking: is an interconnect with such and
>> such throughput and latency sufficient for my heterogeneous workload
>> comprised of bulk data transfers and small messages.  Only you can
>> answer that.
> This question does not "come down to performance", and this question is
> specifically about IB, so there's no way to leave IB out of it.
> This is really a business/economics question as much as it's about
> performance: Is it possible to saturate FDR IB, and if so, how often does
> it happen? How much will it cost for a larger or second IB switch and
> double the number of cables to make this happen? And how hard will it be to
> set up? Will the increased TCO be justified increase in performance? How
> can I measure the increase in performance? How can I measure, in real-time,
> the load on my IB fabric, and collect that data to see if the investment
> paid off?

Generally (lots of hand waving), HPC does not saturate the fabric for IPC
unless is it a many-to-one (e.g. collective). Where lots of bandwidth makes
the most difference is for I/O. Distributed file systems probably put the
most bandwidth load on the system.

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