CS260 Seminar

Winter 2010

High Performance Data Center Networking

I. Summary

This seminar is about networking issues that arise in the context of supporting tightly-coupled, high-performance clusters located in a single machine room, in contrast to loosely-coupled distributed systems or general data services over the public Internet. Historically, this subject has developed from two different background areas. First, supercomputer centers have moved away from big special-purpose vectorized computers (i.e., single instruction, multiple data [SIMD] architectures, such as the Cray-1) to large groups of commodity processors connected by an LAN (i.e., multiple instruction, multiple data [MIMD] architectures, such as a Beowulf cluster). Meanwhile, the interfaces on high performance disk drives began to migrate from parallel ribbon cables (such as SCSI) to serial optical cables (such as fibre channel). Since serial optical cables could be much longer than parallel ribbon cables without degrading the signal, this led to the idea of creating Storage Area Networks (SANs) to allow disks to be housed in a different physical location from the computer system to which they are logically attached. Originally SANs were constructed using dedicated fibre channel equipment, running in parallel to (but not connected with) the organizations existing Local Area Network (which most probably was Ethernet-based). More recently, however, there has been some interest in developing SANs that work using commodity Ethernet equipment to save cost and reduce operational / maintenance / training costs by standardizing on a single technology.

 Ethernet was never designed to serve as a high-performance interconnect within a tighly-coupled computer system, so a number of technical issues have come to light, and work is currently underway to address them. Our goal is to learn:

  1. the performance requirements for this type of application,
  2. the capabilities of various networking technologies that were / are / may be used in the future for this application,
  3. the published data (in terms of case studies, simulations, analytical models, etc) that is relevant to point (1.) or (2.), or the application of some specific technology to this problem domain.

II. Presentation Topics

Each of you will need to make two different class presentations (each about 20-30 minutes in length) on paper of your choosing related to the goals of the class. As soon as you have chosen a paper, send me a link and/or copy for my approval. We will then fit them into a schedule of presentations.

Here is a list of possible topics:

III. Presentation Schedule