Iwill, PathScale tackle server latency

Iwill and PathScale have demonstrated a way to reduce latency in server clusters.

Taiwanese server maker Iwill and PathScale, a US start-up company, this week demonstrated a four-node server cluster based on a technology that's designed to significantly reduce latency.

The demonstration cluster was comprised of four nodes, each made up of a two-way system based on Iwill's DK8-HTX motherboard and two Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Opteron processors. Each system had a PathScale InfiniPath HTX adapter, which connected the HyperTransport interface on the motherboard directly to an InfiniBand backplane that linked the four nodes together.

The direct HyperTransport-InifiniBand connection created by the PathScale adapter eliminates much of the latency found in existing adapters, said Harry Hirschman, PathScale's director of marketing, in an interview at the Computex exhibition in Taipei. This reduction in latency means that processors in a server cluster can spend more time working on the job at hand, rather than waiting for data to be moved around the cluster, he said.

Latency increases as more processors are added to a cluster. By reducing the latency in a cluster, more processors can be added, Hirschman said. PathScale believes its adapter can allow clusters of 1,000 or more nodes, he said, noting that the technology has not yet been tested in a cluster that large.

Mario Cavalli, the general manager of the HyperTransport Consortium, an industry group that promotes the use of HyperTransport, welcomed PathScale's announcement saying this would boost the use of the technology in high-end server clusters. "This opens up new applications," he said.

Cavalli noted that PathScale is one of several companies looking for ways to reduce latency in server clusters. "There are several companies that will be coming out with ways to get HyperTransport off the motherboard," he said, noting that confidentiality agreements prevented him from disclosing details of these efforts.

The PathScale adapter and the Iwill DK8-HTX motherboard are expected to ship at the end of June. The adapter will be priced at US$895. Pricing for the motherboard has not been decided, but it should be available starting from US$600, depending on which processors are used with the system, said Gary Lin, a spokesman for Iwill.

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