Durham University Selects Rockport Switchless Network for COSMA7 Exascale Workload Modeling

• A leading UK HPC research facility chooses 232 nodes for upgrade to a new Rockport switchless network architecture based on some codes seeing up to 28% performance improvement over InfiniBand
• By conquering congestion – a workload killer – Durham is able to speed research results with more predictability, better resource utilization and economic efficiency
• Rockport Joins ExCALIBUR’s Technology Providers Panel

OTTAWA, Ontario — May 24, 2022 Rockport Networks today announced that Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) has selected the Rockport Switchless Network as part of the ExCALIBUR program around new networking technologies for its COSMA7 supercomputer at the DiRAC HPC facility. For the first time the COSMA7 cluster and its 232 Rockport nodes will provide Durham University, DiRAC and the ExCALIBUR program with insight into the benefit of reduced congestion as they model exascale workloads and use codes to run on future exascale systems.

With Rockport’s switchless architecture, Durham is maximizing its investment in HPC infrastructure by overcoming switch-intensive networking tradeoffs while enabling elastic scale, and simplifying operations required for performance-intensive workloads. Rockport’s fully distributed network fabric delivers better performance, resource utilization and network economics by overcoming the congestion bottlenecks associated with traditional switch-based networks.

The ICC’s massively parallel performance- and data-intensive research into dark matter and energy, black holes, planet formation and collisions require tremendous computational power where traditionally the interconnect becomes a limiting factor. Interconnect-related performance and congestion challenges experienced when processing advanced computing workloads result in unpredictable completion times, and under-utilization of expensive compute and storage resources.

After an initial Rockport proof-of-concept deployment in the Durham Intelligent NIC Environment (DINE) supercomputer, the university quickly saw Rockport’s technology as a breakthrough way to address congestion — delivering workload completion time under load equal to or better than InfiniBand.

“We’re always on the hunt for advanced technologies with the potential to improve the performance and reliability of the advanced computing workloads we run,” said Dr. Alastair Basden, DiRAC/Durham University, technical manager of COSMA HPC Cluster. “Based on the results and our first experience with Rockport’s switchless architecture we were confident in our choice to improve our exascale modeling performance – all supported by the right economics.”

The COSMA7 Rockport installation is supported by new funding from DiRAC and from the ExCALIBUR Hardware & Enabling Software (H&ES) program that evaluates next-generation high-performance technologies for the highest-priority fields in UK research.

COSMA7 is helping scientists analyze space’s biggest mysteries including dark energy, black holes, and the origins of the universe. By deploying the Rockport Switchless Network in COSMA7, ICC researchers and scientists around the world can experience the power of Rockport’s architecture, avoiding research delays, and to better equip them to create complex simulations of the universe. Rockport delivers deep insights into how codes are performing and faster time to results over traditional switch-based networks.

The Rockport Switchless Network distributes the network switching function to its COSMA7 endpoint devices (nodes) which become the network. By eliminating layers of switches, the Rockport network ensures compute and storage resources are no longer starving for data, and researchers have more predictability regarding workload completion time.

Rethinking network switches creates an opportunity to leverage direct interconnect topologies that provide a connectivity mesh in which every network endpoint can efficiently forward traffic to every other endpoint. The Rockport Switchless Network is a distributed, highly reliable, high-performance interconnect providing pre-wired supercomputer topologies through a standard plug-and-play Ethernet interface.

Durham especially appreciated the simplicity and the intuitive look inside the network that Rockport’s Autonomous Network Manager (ANM) provides. ANM provides a holistic view and deep insight of the active network. The ICC sees end-to-end traffic flows and can troubleshoot network performance in near realtime – a level of transparency that has long been lacking in the industry.

“The expansion of our network at the ICC’s DiRAC HPC cluster is very exciting for our team because it proved there is no need to compromise when it comes to performance and throughput,” said Matthew Williams, CTO, Rockport Networks. “Tackling congestion has moved beyond provisioning more switches to throw bandwidth at the problem. Sophisticated control and architecture means the customer is no longer at the mercy of the bottlenecks their network infrastructure creates.”

Rockport Joins ExCALIBUR’s Technology Providers Panel

Rockport has also joined the Technology Providers Panel (TPP) formed to allow ExCALIBUR’s H&ES program to interact and collaborate with technology providers in a strategic manner to increase the efficacy and efficiency of their projects.

About Rockport Networks

Rockport Networks’ next-generation of high-performance networks unlocks the entire data center to produce more results, faster, and with better economics and environmental sustainability. Modeled after the world’s fastest supercomputers, the Rockport Switchless Network replaces centralized switch architectures with a distributed, high-performance direct interconnect that is self-discovering, self-configuring and self-healing, and that is simple and transparent to operate. By virtually eliminating congestion and latency, data center workloads can be completed significantly faster, enabling organizations to improve ROI and make critical decisions more quickly. Learn more at www.rockportnetworks.com and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About DiRAC

DiRAC stands for Distributed Research Using Advanced Computing. The DiRAC High Performance Computing facility provides cutting-edge supercomputing resources for UK researchers working on world-leading scientific calculations across a wide range of areas including particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology and nuclear physics. It comprises supercomputers at Cambridge, Durham, Leicester and Edinburgh, each designed to support specific types of calculations.  DiRAC also provides access to a team of expert research software engineers to help researchers make the most efficient use of the available computing resources. For more details see: https://dirac.ac.uk/.

About the ICC

The Institute for Computational Cosmology is a world-leading centre for research in Cosmology and Astrophysics using large supercomputers. It hosts about 50 researchers who, with collaborators across the  world, are responsible for some of the largest and most sophisticated cosmological simulations in the world. These are used to address fundamental questions regarding the nature of dark and dark energy, as well as the formation of galaxies and other large cosmological structures. See https://www.icc.dur.ac.uk


ExCALIBUR (Exascale Computing Algorithms and Infrastructures Benefitting UK Research) is a £45.7m UK Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) programme led by the Met Office, UKAEA and UKRI that aims to deliver the next generation of high-performance simulation software for the highest-priority fields in UK research. ExCALIBUR enables the redesign of high priority computer codes and algorithms to meet the demands of advancing technology and UK research. As part of the ExCALIBUR initiative, UKRI are investing £4.5m over five years to create and evaluate novel pre-Exascale Hardware and Enabling Software (H&ES) testbeds, in a co-design collaboration with technology partners and the UK research community.



Trisha Cooke

Rockport Networks Inc.

Phone Number: +1 (613) 608-6417

Email: tcooke@rockportnetworks.com