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Today's distributed and high-performance applications require high computational power and high communication performance. Recently, the computational power of commodity PCs has doubled about every 18 months. At the same time, network interconnects that provide very low latency and very high bandwidth are also emerging. This is a promising trend in building high-performance computing environments by clustering - combining the computational power of commodity PCs with the communication performance of high-speed network interconnects. There are several network interconnects that provide low latency and high bandwidth. Traditionally, researchers have used simple microbenchmarks, such as latency and bandwidth tests, to characterize a network interconnects communication performance. Later, they proposed more sophisticated models such as LogP. However, these tests and models focus on general parallel computing systems and do not address many features present in these emerging commercial interconnects. Another way to evaluate different network interconnects is to use real-world applications. However, real applications usually run on top of a middleware layer such as the message passing interface (MPI). Our results show that to gain more insight into the performance characteristics of these interconnects, it is important to go beyond simple tests such as those for latency and bandwidth. In future, we plan to expand our microbenchmark suite to include more tests and more interconnects.
Date of Publication: Jan.-Feb. 2004