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Omni-Path Spin-Out Aims To Help HPC Partners Keep Nvidia In Check

‘One of our competitors is going full solution. They‘re getting deeper and deeper into not needing anybody else. And so that eliminates choice and creates opportunity for us,’ says Phil Murphy, CEO of Intel Omni-Path spin-out Cornelis Networks, in an interview with CRN.

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Before the spin-out was announced, it seemed like Nvidia’s Mellanox InfiniBand interconnect product line was the only game in town, and that had been a concern previously relayed by an HPC integrator to me when Nvidia’s acquisition of Mellanox was still in the process. Now with Omni-Path being revived, it's bringing back some competition to the high-speed interconnect space.

[Nvidia is] talking about and maybe they‘ll be successful bringing in Arm. And they already had DGX and other platforms, and I think they’re investing more heavily in platforms as well, which is a threat to certain players in the market. And so they need allies to help them combat that.

I would consider Mellanox, now owned by Nvidia, as your main competitor, but are there other players that you would consider competitors as well?

There are multiple choices for interconnects in high-performance computing. For workloads that are not highly sensitive to network performance, we see a lot of Ethernet being used. I think as we transition more into AI workloads, we‘re going to see less and less of that frankly. I think we’re going to see more purpose-built, because what we’re really trying to do is make sure that we can deliver the attributes that the workload really needs. But still Ethernet is a choice for some application environments.

And so then beyond that, there really is one other existing choice, and that‘s Nvidia’s Mellanox InfiniBand. It’s a strong choice, but it’s become over time only supplied by one vendor, so we say a single source technology at this point. And that technology choice has been pulled more deeply into a certain direction that’s going to support a subset of the market: obviously Nvidia’s GPUs, where InfiniBand is going to be pulled more tightly in supporting that specific GPU, maybe that specific processor if [Arm gets acquired by Nvidia]. And so, that’s fine. And then there’s one that’s under development at [Hewlett Packard Enterprise, it’s called Slingshot. It’s claimed to be an Ethernet technology, and what that really means is that when it’s communicating to an Ethernet device, it’ll have the ability to do that. At some point that could also be competitor.

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