Why it matters: Data might be all the rage these days, but apparently, Intel didn’t get the memo. Since 2015 Intel and their Omni-Path architecture have competed with Mellanox for dominance in datacenter networking, with Intel capturing 10% of the top 500 supercomputers and Mellanox 25%. Until recently speeds were capped at 100Gbps, but Mellanox has upped the ante with 200Gbps, and Intel would rather back down than compete.
Despite Omni-Path continuing to be a popular solution – according to Intel, at least – several of Intel’s largest customers told CRN that Intel will be ending production of OPA100 (Omni-Path Architecture 100Gbps) soon, and only manufacturing on request. Intel’s Jennifer Huffstetler, vice president for datacenter affairs, has confirmed that OPA200 has been discarded but is vague on the future of OPA100 and any potential replacements.
Omni-Path is a competing solution to Ethernet and InfiniBand, though Intel sells products using all three standards. Mellanox, recently purchased by Nvidia and one Intel’s main competitor, uses InfiniBand and Ethernet. Intel sells PCIe cards, 48-port network switches and cables employing Omni-Path for up to 100Gbps. Mellanox sells the same round of products operating at up to 200Gbps for ethernet and InfiniBand standards, though their switches only operate up to 40 ports.
While Intel’s exit from the market seems worrying (we’ve all seen what happens when Nvidia gets a monopoly), it could be a sign that they’re doubling down on their InfiniBand and ethernet products. Presently, they have their 100G optical transceiver which operates at 100Gbps for all three standards using an ethernet port and in April they demoed a version operating at 400Gbps.
“We are evaluating options for extending the capabilities for high-performance ethernet switches that we can expand the ability to meet the growing needs of HPC and AI. More to come.”
According to Top 500 (which analyzes the top 500 supercomputers), ethernet is used by 54% of systems, but those systems comprise only 25% of the cumulative performance. InfiniBand punches well above its weight, used in 25% of systems but controlling 38% of the performance. If Intel truly wants to use ethernet, they’ll have to double down on their photonics magic to edge out Mellanox.