Video: Finisar Demonstrates 25G SFPwire Active Optical Cable with Connectivity Diagnostics at OFC 2016

Looking Back at ISC 2015 in Frankfurt

This blog post was authored by Sando Anoff, Finisar RSM.

Finisar was a participant at the recent ISC 2015 High Performance Conference and Tradeshow in Frankfurt, the premiere annual Supercomputing event in Europe. We set up a live demo of a 100 Gb/s Quadwire® active optical cable, which attracted a lot of attention. This product is based on our advanced in-house device technology and consists of four VCSELS operating at 25 Gb/s each on the transmit side and the corresponding PIN receivers on the receive side (all integrated in a single cable).

If you are a newcomer to the field of supercomputing, you might wonder what optical communication has to do with it, but the fact is that high-speed and low-latency communications have always been an essential part of high-performance computing designs, due to the huge amounts of information that need to be transmitted quickly and with a minimum of delay within the different parts of the system. For such demanding requirements, and except in cases where the distances covered are relatively short, optical transmission is the way to go. Another increasingly important factor, as the supercomputers get even larger, is power-efficiency, especially as the industry moves towards exa-scale computing. There were a whole range of interesting technologies on display at the show: IC’s placed in bubbling liquids, entire PCB’s submerged in barrels of fluid, etc. This trend towards energy efficiency may partly explain the considerable interest shown in our optical engines (Board-mount optical assemblies) that we had on display. These are compact, high-bandwidth optical interconnects that can be mounted directly onto a host board and reduce power consumption.

Something that really caught my eye as I wandered through the exhibition area was a booth that showed how a supercomputing infrastructure can be extended to encompass our globe. It allows an InfiniBand fabric – normally a short-range network used in supercomputers and data centers – to be securely extended via optical fiber over global distances. This was presented by a company called Obsidian Strategics and I was very pleasantly surprised when the friendly gentleman there pulled out the transceiver installed in his systems, and, lo and behold, it was from Finisar! That definitely made my day, not to mention the great conversation we had about sending huge chunks of data across transoceanic links at light speed!

So where do we go from here? The fastest supercomputer in existence today (Milky Way 2) is about 10 thousand million times faster than the first supercomputer that was built in 1964. I am certainly looking forward to the future as the industry pushes the envelope of what is possible.

ISC’14 Wrap-Up

This week’s blog post comes from Steffen Koehler, Finisar Senior Product Line Manager.

Finisar recently exhibited at ISC’14 in Leipzig, Germany. What a fantastic event to showcase our Optical Interconnect portfolio for HPC/supercomputer applications. For details about these high-performance optics products and our exciting live 100G Quadwire active optical cable demo at the show, click here to read the press release.


For those show attendees who stopped by to visit our booth and enter our raffle, we are excited to announce the winner: Filippo Mantovani of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. Congratulations!

To learn more about optimizing your HPC/supercomputer with optics, I encourage you to visit our microsite:

See you next time at ISC’15 in Germany.

A Trip to China and A Top500 Award for Quadwire

This week’s Lightspeed post comes from guest blogger Tony Pearson, Finisar’s Director of Product Marketing.

A “lightspeed” visit to China! It was a short journey of only 3 days, with two halves and a tale of two cities, separated by a virtual “Great Wall”. The first half: a visit to Shanghai, both the city and one of the jewels in the Finisar homegrown facility treasury. The second: to Tianjin (approx. 150km from Beijing) to visit Dawning Information Industry Company Ltd. and their Nebulae Supercomputer installation. The virtual “Great Wall” I refer to was simply the barrier thrown up by Mother Nature to domestic flight schedules – during rainy season in Beijing we are reminded that no matter how fast our communication solutions become…she’s still the boss! I’ll focus on two halves and the cities for this post, but I’m always happy to recount my travel stories to the interested in a future blog post.

Let me begin with an event that I was honored to attend at the Dawning manufacturing facility in June for those companies, including Finisar, who helped enable the world’s #2 supercomputer “Nebulae” as ranked by the 35th edition of the Top 500 supercomputer list. The event celebrated a milestone for Dawning as the #1 Supercomputer solution vendor in China and #2 in the world in terms of performance as ranked by the Top 500. Dawning further honored Finisar with a commemorative award for participation in Nebulae.

The Nebulae Supercomputer was at the center of the celebration with the event including a tour of Nebulae itself. The exciting thing for me, personally, was to see a supercomputer with over 120 server racks connected using Quadwire™ Active Optical Cables. This excitement only perhaps topped by the fact that these cables were designed and manufactured by Finisar at the very facility I visited the previous day.

Although not my first visit to China, this was my first visit to Shanghai and the Finisar Shanghai R&D and Manufacturing facility. Shanghai is truly a city in the fast lane, quite literally with some of the best kept and most functional highways I’ve seen in the world. With all eyes currently on the World Expo site located on the Huang Pu River running through the heart of downtown, this is a city in the same mold as Singapore, New York, London or Hong Kong, in my opinion, with a very cosmopolitan feel and population. With an infectious air of both maturity and optimism, this is a city that makes you want to keep coming back. The same is true of the Finisar Shanghai team and site in its newer location with a mix of both locally and globally educated talent, with a vast wealth of experience in the fiber optics business.

While this trip was focused on the high tech: high tech cities, high tech facilities, high tech computer solutions and high tech fiber optics, the real story here for me was about two Laws of Nature: “Bandwidth x Distance” limits combined with our relentless need for more information, pushing fiber solutions over longer distances now to our homes and to the Supercomputer in its most recent incarnation. And, then of course Mother Nature, who stamped her laws on my ability to move around China if not the data in the highly controlled environment of the Nebulae Supercomputer installation.
Finisar’s Tony Pearson (left) visits Dawning for a tour of the Nebulae – the World’s #2 Supercomputer as ranked by the 35th edition of the Top 500 supercomputer list.

ISC 2010 Wrap-Up –What’s Hot in Supercomputing

This week’s blog post comes from Katharine Schmidtke, Finisar’s Strategic Marketing Manager.

I had the pleasure of attending the International Supercomputer Conference (ISC) event May 31-June 3, in Hamburg Germany. The show was well attended and appeared to have doubled in size from last year. In attendance were all the major industry suppliers and leading technology providers such as Mellanox, QLogic, Voltaire, NVidia, HP, IBM, Cray, Oracle, AMD, Intel, LSI, Supermicro and STEC. Key themes included supercomputing, storage and networking. Of those, hot trends discussed were cloud and parallel computing as well as the future developments to come in the next 10 years. The trend to higher bandwidth continues, with the IBTA announcing the latest roadmap which adds a new datarate at FDR (14 Gbps) in addition to EDR (26 Gbps). InfiniBand is targeting 300 Gbps by 2011 in a 12 lane format running at 26Gbps per lane.

And as I sat through the presentations and spoke to some of the folks on the show floor, it became evident that there are two central themes underpinning all the major business and HPC initiatives – latency and flexibility. Reducing latency is key for supercomputers, while flexibility is the driver in cloud computing. NVidia made quite a splash with their Tesla C2050 GPUs which are used to improve data crunching speeds in many supercomputers, including the new #2 supercomputer – the Nebulae system built by Dawning in China. Dr. Wilfried Oed from Cray shared some of the secrets in the new XE-6 supercomputer including the new Gemini network card which he admits is “more than just a router” by increasing processing speeds using a clever non-blocking routing system.

On the news front, the biannual 35th edition of the Top 500 supercomputer list was released. The U.S. continues to take the lead in the number one spot with Jaguar, the fastest supercomputer system used for The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Computing Facility. Trailing close behind and ranked second on the list is Nebulae, China’s fastest system worldwide.

Other noteworthy technical initiatives point to Intel, who dominates the high-end process market with roughly 82% of all systems and over 90% of quad-core based systems. IBM recoups the lead in market share by total systems and overall performance from Hewlet-Packard (HP). And exciting for Finisar – we were part of the 120 Gb/s InfiniBand demonstration at this year’s event. Check out the press release issued by the HPC Advisory Council to learn more.

Until next year’s ISC show, Auf Wiedersehen, as they say in German!

K.Schmidtke 2009

Finisar at ISC Hamburg Germany 2010

Finisar at ISC 2010