Comparison of Wired and Wireless HPC Networking Methods

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1 Comparison of Wired and Wireless HPC Networking Methods Wyatt Gorman Table of Contents 1. Experiment Summary 2. Bandwidth 3. Latency 4. Power Usage 5. Scalability 6. Reliability 7. Cost of Ownership 8. Potential of Networking Methods 1

2 1. Experiment Summary Two network types were evaluated in this experiment, wired 100 Mb/s Ethernet connection and an ad hoc Wi Fi connection. These networks were for characteristics such as bandwidth, latency, scalability, reliability and cost of ownership. My wired ethernet connection consisted of a D Link 100 Mb/s ethernet (RJ45) switch as an isolated network, with statically assigned IPs. My wireless network was an ad hoc topology on Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG cards. I used an ad hoc topology due to the clustered paradigm of the machines associated with this network, and the decentralized nature of ad hoc networking. I utilized three Dell Latitude D420 computers running Ubuntu 13.10, with 2 GB of RAM and 60GB HDD as my test cluster; these machines have low voltage CPUs, Intel Core Solo U1300 ULV (1.06GHz, 533MHz), which allowed me to minimize the amount that the processors are measured in the overall power usage in my different test conditions. They also came pre equipped with wireless cards and Ethernet network ports, which facilitated my testing. I tested link speed using the netperf network speed testing software between each node. I determined latency from a battery of ping requests between each node. 2. Bandwidth Run Wired Speed (Mb/s) Avg

3 Wired ethernet, rated at a theoretical 100 Megabits per second (Mb/s) bandwidth, tested at Mb/s, which is reasonable, accounting for network overhead. Ethernet is also capable of far greater speeds, with 1 Gb/s switches commonplace in HPC clusters today, and 10 Gb/s or 40 Gb/s interconnects gaining popularity. However, not all situations demand high bandwidth capable networks. Run Wireless Speed (Mb/s) Avg Wireless Ethernet in an ad hoc configuration, rated at a theoretical 54 Mb/s maximum bandwidth, though often limited in the field due to distance and number of clients to 10 Mb/s, tested at 5.12 Mb/s. Wireless networks can perform at higher speeds, 108 Mb/s in dual band G mode Wi Fi, and higher in special cases. These maximums also suffer at scale. 3. Latency 3

4 Run Wired Latency (ms) Avg The latency tested at 0.22 ms, which is a good speed for a single switch. This would change at scale, however. See the Scalability section for more on this issue. Run Wireless Latency (ms)

5 Avg The wireless network s latency tested at an average of 1.64 ms, which is significantly higher than the wired methods. This latency is also likely to change at scale. See the Scalability section for more on this issue. 4. Power Usage In my wired ethernet cluster I found that the three machines and a 24 port 100 Mb/s switch drew 102 watts at 120 V AC. The computers themselves drew a maximum of 65 watts of power each, with an wattage of 25 watts during testing. The switch drew 27 watts of power under load. Power plays a role in scaling a wired solution as well. My Ad Hoc wireless cluster with three machines and their Intel wireless cards drew 62 watts at 120 V AC, with a wattage of 15 watts while testing. This is significantly less than the wired ethernet solution drew, due to the lack of additional necessary hardware, and low power usage of the wifi cards compared to the ethernet NIC of the machine. 5. Scalability Wired Ethernet, by design, scales well in network performance, but faces costs at scale in it's cost of ownership. Ethernet switches have a limited number of ports, which requires the purchase of new switches, in order to expand a network. This issue is addressed further in the cost of ownership section. A) Power As you scale wired ethernet solutions you must account for additional switch and router infrastructure. This would dramatically increase your power requirements as you scale your cluster. Since the switch drew 27 watts, you can expect approximately every 24 new nodes to incur a 27 watt power draw increase. B) Latency 5

6 Latency would increase as well as additional switches are added into the network topology to account for scaled nodes. Since the first switch required 0.22 ms, another additional switch will require the additional nodes to traverse both switches, resulting in 0.44 ms of latency, and so on. The very nature of a wireless Ad Hoc network is designed for decentralized environments. Ad Hoc networks start on one client, and any clients that connect afterwards will join the network and will rebroadcast the ad hoc network to other possible clients. If one client disconnects, the entire network will continue with the remaining clients. Each client cooperates in an equal, daisy chain manner to distribute packets through the network. A) Interference An issue with wireless networking at scale is interference, which comes from the radio frequency nature of it s design. As your number of wifi adapters in an area increases, your interference rate will increase. This interference will result in dropped packets and thus a significantly lower reliability. B) Latency As the number of clients on the ad hoc network increases the latency for all clients. This is due to the decentralized, ad hoc design of the network, meaning clients pass packets throughout the network until it s destination client receives the packet. As the number of clients increases, the number of hops necessary for a packet to reach it s destination on average. C) Bandwidth Bandwidth in wireless networks is shared among all client on that network. This applies in Ad Hoc networks as well, and is actually more impactful due to the decentralized nature of the network. Since most nodes will be involved in packet passing through the network, each node shares the bandwidth. If there are two jobs running on the network at once, then the bandwidth is halved (not counting for additional overhead). If there are four clients, it s divided into fourths, and so on. Below you can see the effects of running two simultaneous netperf batteries on the two separate machines on the cluster. You can see that the bandwidth of both machines suffers, and is cut approximately in half. Run Machine #1 Bandwidth (Mb/s) Machine #2 Bandwidth (Mb/s)

7 Avg The severity of this effect depends on the path that the packets take through the network. They may find their destination on a single hop, or they may traverse the entire network before reaching their destination. On average, however, half the network will be traversed before the destination is reached, which impacts bandwidth significantly. 6. Reliability The bandwidth of my wired connection proved itself very reliable, with no more than Mb/s variation throughout my experiment. The latency of the wired connection varied by no more than ±0.002 ms. There were no packets dropped in this network. This shows extremely high reliability in both link speed latency, and packet loss. The design of wired networking requires layers of redundancy and fault tolerance. For example, any switch should have a redundant back up, in case that switch falls offline. Links connecting switches must also have redundant back ups in place in case that link or port on the switch fails. There are many requirements and costs to building and maintaining a reliable and redundant wired network. These are addressed further in the Cost of Ownership section. The bandwidth of my wireless connection showed some more significant bandwidth variation at ±0.61 Mb/s throughout the experiment. One large advantage of wireless Ad Hoc networking is in reliability and graceful handling in case of failure. The design of Ad Hoc networking means that there is no central host, no single wireless access point that could fail and disable the entire network. If a node falls out of the Ad Hoc network, all the other nodes continue on supporting the network, broadcasting it s existence, and handling traffic. The failed node can then be fixed and rejoin the network without any additional configuration. This is a massive boon for networking, which in cases of wired networks have to be engineered with fault tolerance and redundancy. 7

8 7. Cost of Ownership Wired ethernet switches face many cost of ownership issues. The price of the switches and routers themselves is great, especially for high speed, high reliability switches needed in today s HPC labs. You must also consider the cost of making your network redundant, which often means buying equipment in pairs for active redundancy, and spares for replacement. The cables themselves must also be purchased. The NIC cards must also be considered, though a machine rarely comes without an ethernet jack or a more advanced connection (SFP family). In addition to hardware cost, maintenance must be considered. For a sufficiently complex network, a network administrator must be kept on hand. This person must also be trained in the intricacies of that particular network, and people have to be called in to repair failures. Wireless networks avoid the cost of switches and routers. Ad Hoc networks require nothing more than wireless adapters, which can be purchased cheaply with USB connectors and added easily to a machine. More traditional wireless networks require central wireless access points, which can be as expensive as ethernet switches. Maintenance cost is likely to remain the same. However, power usage cost drops dramatically. We saw earlier, in the Power section, that the wired network uses 102 watts of power while under load. This is massive compared to the wireless network wattage of 62 watts while under the wifi cards maximum load. While there is a trade off between power usage and bandwidth/latency, there is a significant savings in the power usage of the wireless network. 8. Potential of Networking Methods Wired ethernet s bandwidth and low latency is advantageous in situations where there are extremely high throughput jobs such as SAN or NAS situations, especially with data I/O intensive jobs running on the cluster. As well, due to it s high reliability, it may be a better solution generally for HPC labs today. However, there are situations in which I would recommend the wireless networking option. Wireless Ad Hoc networks generally have low bandwidth, but comparable latency. This means wireless networks would be advantageous in situations where there isn t a significant amount of 8

9 bandwidth being used at any one time. This might include message passing networks, management networks, or clusters which run jobs without high I/O, jobs which do most processing locally for example. As well, wireless networking could be used in situations where your wired network is oversaturated with high bandwidth applications; you could separate your message passing network in order to be able to maintain high speed message passing and management of your cluster while large data transfers are still occurring. Wireless Ad Hoc networks also pose an excellent alternative to wired networking in situations where wired networking simply is not practical or possible, or when wireless capability is integrated in your machines such as in laptop based clusters. WIreless Ad Hoc networking could also provide an interesting solution to situations with frequent network reprovisioning. Clusters could be separated into their own Ad Hoc networks easily and quickly, allowing for the type of network division which would require complex configurations at the switch level in wired networks. 9

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