Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Wednesday, October 28, 2020
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PCIe Tools Aim to Speed Data Fabric Apps 

A design kit tailored to PCI Express 4.0 data fabrics combines orchestration software from infrastructure platform vendor Liqid and silicon switch giant Broadcom. The goal is accelerating application prototyping, testing and development that would expand enterprise adoption of higher-bandwidth PCIe connectivity in datacenters and hybrid clouds.

The reference design kit released this week is aimed at developers deploying next-generation datacenter applications based on PCIe 4.0. The kit consists of Liqid’s orchestration software along with Broadcom’s PEX88000 PCIe 4.0 switches aimed at “managed-fabric” connectivity.

The design kit focuses on datacenter applications ranging from edge and 5G computing to machine learning workloads and HPC applications. All stand to benefit from the latest bus standard’s high data transfer speeds and reduced latency.

Liqid, Broomfield, Colo., specializes in composable infrastructure that allows various combinations of computing, storage and networking to be assembled and managed via an API or web-based interface. The design kit announced on Thursday (July 9) is promoted by the partners as an “orchestration-ready” platform.

The 4.0 version of PCIe effectively doubles throughput over the previous generation, with networking bandwidth reaching up to 256 giga-transfers per second per port. Hence, the partners and other connectivity specialists are rolling out tools for developing big data applications.

For its part, Broadcom’s (NASDAQ: AVGO) new PCIe switches are promoted as a “rack-scale fabric” for connecting GPUs, high-end CPUs NVMe storage drives and network interface cards increasingly handling machine learning and analytics workloads in datacenters. Operators are steadily turning to data fabrics as a way of running these data-driven workloads on-premises or in hybrid cloud deployments.

The partners said their design kit is a turnkey platform intended to accelerate prototyping and development of PCIe-based fabrics.

Developers can test applications via code written against Liqid’s RESTful API or via a user interface.

The kit also includes a fabric management node, Liqid’s “Command Center” fabric and orchestration software, a PCIe 4.0 fabric switch and expansion chassis along with host bus adapter and cabling.

As the latest generation of PCIe technology makes its way into datacenters, “The industry needs reliable, turnkey platforms on which to effectively and swiftly validate new devices and applications,” said Sumit Puri, Liqid’s CEO and co-founder.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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