Data Center Space Takes on Nvidia with UAlink

2024-06-04 16:18:26

The data center industry has formed a team to challenge Nvidia's NVlink GPU interconnect technology. AMD, Broadcom, Cisco, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Meta and Microsoft have formed the Ultra Accelerator Link (UALink).

UALInk is developing an open-standard interface for low-latency interconnects for next-generation AI gas pedals in data centers. Nvidia currently dominates this market with 80% market share, utilizing its proprietary NVlink technology to connect its GPUs into a large cluster.

NVlink and UAlink are not the same Ethernet, Ultra Ethernet (UEC) or Infiniband technologies that connect servers and racks in an AI data center.

"In a short period of time, the technology industry has embraced the challenges posed by artificial intelligence and high-performance computing. Interconnect gas pedals, such as GPUs, require a holistic perspective when looking to improve efficiency and performance. 
At UEC, we believe that UALink's scaling approach to solving pod clustering issues complements our own scaling protocols, and we look forward to working together to create an open, ecosystem-friendly, industry-wide solution that will address both types of needs in the future,” said J. Metz, Chairman of the Ultra Ethernet Consortium.

The UALink Promoter Group of companies brings extensive experience in creating large-scale AI and HPC solutions based on open standards, efficient and robust ecosystem support. The group will develop a specification to define high-speed, low-latency interconnects to enable scalable communication between gas pedals and switches in AI compute pods.

The 1.0 specification will allow for the connection of up to 1,024 gas pedals within an AI Compute Pod and direct load and store between memories connected to gas pedals (e.g., GPUs) within the Pod.

The UALink initiator group has formed the UALink Alliance, which is expected to be formed in the third quarter of 2024. Specification 1.0 is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2024 and will be made available to companies that join the Ultra Accelerator Link (UALink) Alliance.

The work UALink is doing to create open, efficient and scalable gas pedals is critical to the future of AI," said Forrest Norrod, executive vice president and general manager, AMD Data Centers. Together, we bring a wealth of experience creating large-scale AI and high-performance computing solutions based on open standards, efficiency and strong ecosystem support. AMD is committed to contributing its expertise, technology and capabilities to the group and other open industries to advance all aspects of AI technology and solidify the open AI ecosystem."

Broadcom is proud to be a founding member of the UALink Alliance and has a longstanding commitment to implementing AI technologies at scale in the data center," said Jas Tremblay, vice president and general manager of Broadcom's Data Center Solutions Group. It is critical to support open ecosystem collaboration to scale networks with a variety of high-speed, low-latency solutions."

HPE vice president and general manager, HPC and AI Infrastructure Solutions, said, "Open standards are important to HPE as we innovate in supercomputing and increase access to our systems. As a founding member of the UALink industry consortium, we look forward to leveraging our expertise in high-performance networking and systems and collaborating on new open standards for next-generation supercomputer gas pedal interconnects."

Sachin Katti, senior vice president and general manager, Networking and Edge Business Unit, Intel Corporation, said, "UALink is an important milestone in the advancement of artificial intelligence. Intel is honored to co-lead this new technology and leverage its expertise to create an open, dynamic AI ecosystem. As a founding member of this new alliance, we look forward to starting a new wave of industrial innovation and bringing added value to our customers through the UALink standard. This initiative extends Intel's commitment to AI connectivity innovation, which includes a leadership role in the Ultra Ethernet Alliance and other standards bodies."

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