Lightbeam Technologies Blog

Intro
An efficient setup can be broken down into three main areas:

  1. Network/Switch
  2. Server
  3. Workstations (user groups)

This article discusses some of the most common things to consider to improve your setup.

Network and switch

  • Switch - Everything always starts at the switch. The switch is the single most important part of the network. The switch should have at least 40Gb/s worth of uplinks to it, either with multiple 40GB/s, 50GB/s, or even 100GB/s connections, giving you either 5 GB/s, 6.25 GB/s, or 12.5 GB/s of theoretical maximum transfer speed. For a more budget setup, you can have 4 SFP+ (10Gb) connections to the switch from a server (or respective uplink)
  • Network - After switch selection, network connections are the next most critical part of the setup.  Firstly, the connection from the server (or uplink to the switch) should have the connections mentioned above.  The cable pulls should be at least two to each workstation, either SFP+ or RJ-45 copper Category 6A (not category 6)  Category 6A has twice the frequency available to each cable.

Server (storage)
Very few servers supply full speed to networks.  Another building block to a fast network is a fast server.  Not only will your file transfers go more quickly when your network is set up properly, but it will also lessen the amount of time needed for the server to server users, allowing for significantly less wait times for server operations.  Also, the number of drives are essential - even 16 drives are not enough to support a workgroup above just a handful of users.

Workstations (user groups)
Let's say you have a server that supplies several GB/s to a switch, and you have speedy 10Gb/s connections in place, and you want to connect two of those connections to a workstation.  It's reasonable to expect up to 2GB/s to a workstation, but most often a workstation is not designed to work with file transfers that fast, basically making workstations themselves the bottleneck.  SSDs only help to a point, but are actually risky due to their tendency to their inherent write and erase limitations.  So, what do you do?  It's essential to design workstations built for fast network transfer speeds. This can be done in several ways, and this depends on the apps you use, but one of the most effective ways is to create a RAM disk (with hard drive backups), and having all the cache and scratch spaces for your apps point to that location. This allows network transfer speeds at full line rate.  But also you must manage the processing of the data that's being networked as well.

Additional follow-up points

  • Never count on SLI to scale GPUs: While this does help, it is far more efficient to utilize the scaling abilities of your software, which results in many multiples of performance gain in many instances.
  • Get a good switch: A good switch is probably the single most important part of a well working network.
  • Avoid SSDs for mission-critical operations: SSDs can be used in specific cases, in general they are not the best option for performance.
  • Get a good server: So many storage vendors force users to take a leap of faith with their technical jargon. Ours are among the fastest in the world, and we have references to prove it.
  • GPU memory:  Make sure you have enough GPU memory in each GPU, otherwise you will introduce a performance bottleneck.

In conclusion
The storage market is a savage place, and that alone is not enough to fix production problems.  Be sure to do your research when you work with vendors.  Ultimately, you have to live with your choices.  Lightbeam has done many setups all over the world, and we can definitely help you with your situation.  Please feel free to contact us for any questions.

 

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