Quadrics

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This article is about the computing company. For the use in mathematics, see Quadric.
Quadrics Ltd.
Type Private Subsidiary
Industry HPC Interconnects
Founded 1996
Headquarters Bristol, UK
Products QsNet, RMS, 10GigE switches
Services Linux Clustering
Parent Alenia, part of Finmeccanica

Quadrics was a supercomputer company formed in 1996 as a joint venture between Alenia Spazio and the technical team from Meiko Scientific. They produced hardware and software for clustering commodity computer systems into massively parallel systems. Their highpoint was in June 2003 when six out of the ten fastest supercomputers in the world were based on Quadrics' interconnect.[1] They officially closed on June 29, 2009.[2]

Company history[edit]

The Quadrics name was first used in 1993 for a commercialized version of the APE100 SIMD parallel computer produced by Alenia Spazio and originally developed by INFN, the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics. In 1996, a new Alenia subsidiary, Quadrics Supercomputers World (QSW) was formed, based in Bristol, UK and Rome, Italy, inheriting the Quadrics SIMD product line and the Meiko CS-2 massively parallel supercomputer architecture. In 2002 the company name was shortened to be simply Quadrics.

Initially, the new company focussed on the development potential of the CS-2's processor interconnect technology. Their first design was the Elan2 network ASIC, intended for use with the UltraSPARC CPU, attached to it using the Ultra Port Architecture (UPA) system bus. Plans to introduce the Elan2 were later dropped, and a new Elan3 hosted on PCI introduced instead. By the time of its release Elan3 had been re-aimed at the Alpha/PCI market instead, after Quadrics had formed a relationship with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).

The combination of Quadrics and Alpha 21264 (EV6) microprocessors proved very successful, and Digital/Compaq rapidly became one of the world's largest suppliers of supercomputers. This culminated with the building the largest machine in the USA, the 20 TFLOP ASCI Q, installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory during 2002 and 2003. The machine consisted of 2,048 AlphaServer SC nodes (which are based on AlphaServer ES45), each with four 1.25 GHz Alpha 21264A (EV67) microprocessors and two rails of the Quadrics QsNet network.

Quadrics also had success in selling Linux based systems. Quadrics' first Linux based system was installed in June/July 2001 at SHARCNET. It was the fastest civilian system in Canada at the time of installation. Another high profile Quadrics system was the fastest[3] Linux cluster in the world called Thunder[4] installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2003/2004. Thunder consisted of 1024 Intel Tiger Quad Itanium II Processor servers to deliver 19.94 teraflops on parallel Linpack. Peak performance of the system was 22.9 teraflops, at a level of efficiency of 87%.

In 2004 Quadrics was selected by Bull for what will be the fastest[5] supercomputer in Europe: TERA-10 at the French CEA: 544 Bull NovaScale 6160 computing nodes, each including eight Itanium 2 processors. The global configuration will feature 8,704 processors with 27 terabytes of core memory. Each of these computing nodes will contain multiple Quadrics QsNetII (Elan4) network adapters to deliver over 60 teraflops (sixty thousands billions of operations per second).

Quadrics was selected by HP for the upgrade of SHARCNET, the Canadian Cluster of Clusters, with four new high-performance computing clusters that would increase the network's capacity from 1,000 to 6,000 processors. QsNetII was used for one capacity and one capability cluster.

In August 2005 Quadrics and STMicroelectronics signed a development agreement. The cooperation was to cover the design of a future generations of Quadrics high speed multi gigabit interconnect, and the exploitation of the products in a range of high volume applications. This co-operation never bore fruit despite the secondment of STMicroelectronics Bristol based staff to Quadrics.

The decision to close the company was made in April 2009, despite the next-generation QsNetIII product being very close to completion. Support for older products and the IP rights were transferred to Vega UK Ltd (now Telespazio VEGA ), and the Quadrics offices were closed on June 29, 2009. Many of Quadrics' technical Staff have since found similar employment in developing HPC networking products with Gnodal, one of the many fabless semiconductor companies based in Bristol in the UK.

Quadrics products[edit]

Hardware[edit]

  • Quadrics QsNetI - HPC interconnect based around the elan3/elite3 ASICs (350MBs @ 5us MPI latency)
  • Quadrics QsNetII - HPC interconnect based around the elan4/elite4 ASICs (912MB/s on SR1400 EM64T and 1.26us MPI latency on HP DL145G2)
  • QsTenG - 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches, from 24-port (1U) to very large switches.
  • QsNet III - HPC interconnect based around the elan5/elite5 ASICs (approximately 2 GB/s each direction and 1.3 us MPI latency). This is the first product from Quadrics that is compatible with a standard - in this case 10 GBit Ethernet.

QsTenG[edit]

In November 2005 Quadrics announced a new product based on 10-gigabit Ethernet (10 GigE), called QsTenG. The first QsTenG switch was an 8U chassis with 12 slots for 10 GigE line cards, making 96 ports in total. Each line card had eight 10 GigE ports that connect using 10GBASE-CX4 connectors. Each line card also had four internal ports that connected the line cards together into a fat tree configuration. Since then, Quadrics brought out a second generation of 10 GigE switches, starting with a compact 1U switch with 24 ports, which comes in two variants, TG201-CA, 24 ports CX4, and TG201-XA, 24 ports in total, 12 XSP and 12 CX4. They were expected to bring out a range of larger switches in 2009, the chassis was planned to be the same as the QsNetIII, the switch to have been called TG215.

Late in 2007, the Quadrics management decided to cancel the QsTenG Ethernet developments and concentrate efforts on the QsNet product line. This caused a group employees to leave and help found Gnodal, to develop large scalable Ethernet systems.

Software[edit]

Software included a cluster resource manager software package called QuadricsRms, and Quadrics Linux Software, core components of the QsNet software release for Linux under the GNU LGPL License

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]