Scan AI

Scan AI

Connectivity for AI

High performance AI-optimised server and storage systems need an equally high-performance network infrastructure to support them and ensure there are no bottlenecks that affect data throughput. Whether located within a datacentre or at the edge of the network, connectivity is key to keep systems functioning optimally. The Scan AI networking solutions portfolio includes Ethernet, InfiniBand, wireless and 4G / 5G options to deliver best in class performance - whether you’re at the development, training or inferencing stage of your project.

Network Interface Cards

Although only a small component in an overall server build, the Network Interface Card or NIC, can contribute to a huge uplift in performance. Basic server NICs use Ethernet as a protocol and start with throughput speeds of 1Gbps (Gigabits per second), scaling to 40Gbps at the top end.

Regardless of the network speed, a standard NIC is concerned with network communication between users, other servers and storage devices via the network switches. All processing of data is performed either by the CPU(s) and GPU(s) installed in the server, and thus introduces latency as data is transferred around the server. To reduce this latency and scale to greater throughput speeds a Smart NIC is required.

Network Interface Cards

Name Protocol Interfaces Maximum Speed Ports Host Bus RDMA / RoCE
Intel 700 Series Ethernet RJ45 / SFP+ / QSFP+ / QSFP28 40Gbps 1 / 2 / 4 PCIe 3.0
No
Intel 500 Series Ethernet RJ45 / LC Fibre / SFP28 10Gbps 1 / 2 PCIe 3.0
No
Intel GbE Series Ethernet RJ45 / LC Fibre 1Gbps 1 / 2 / 4 PCIe 3.0
No
VIEW THE INTEL NIC RANGE >

To learn more about Ethernet and InfiniBand NIC technologies click here to read our Network Card Buyers Guide. Alternatively speak to our server architects on 01204 474747 or at [email protected].

Smart Network Interface Cards

A Smart NIC, sometimes referred to as an HCA (Host Channel Adapter) when discussing InfiniBand technology, performs all the tasks of a regular NIC but in order to cope with higher throughput speeds a degree of off-loading is required to reduce pressure on other components in the server.

This means the network card itself performs some of the processing tasks, removing the latency usually introduced by the CPU, system memory and operating system (OS). This off-loading is referred to as Remote Memory Direct Access (RDMA) for InfiniBand cards and RDMA over converged Ethernet (RoCE) for Ethernet cards. This off-loading will help when concerned with increasing GPU utilisation for AI workloads, but to cope with software defined applications, it is likely a DPU will offer better performance.

Smart Network Interface Card Specifications

Name Protocol Interfaces Maximum Speed Ports Host Bus RDMA / RoCE
NVIDIA ConnectX-7 Ethernet / InfiniBand QSFP56 400Gbps 1 / 2 PCIe 4.0
Yes
NVIDIA ConnectX-6 Ethernet / InfiniBand QSFP56 200Gbps 1 / 2 PCIe 4.0
Yes
Intel 800 Series Ethernet SFP28 / QSFP28 100Gbps 2 / 4 PCIe 4.0
Yes
NVIDIA ConnectX-5 Ethernet / InfiniBand SFP28 / QSFP28 100Gbps 1 / 2 PCIe 3.0
Yes
NVIDIA ConnectX-4 Ethernet / InfiniBand SFP28 / QSFP28 50Gpbs 1 / 2 PCIe 3.0
Yes
VIEW THE SMART NIC RANGE >

To learn more about Ethernet and InfiniBand NIC technologies click here to read our Network Card Buyers Guide. Alternatively speak to our server architects on 01204 474747 or at [email protected].

Data Processing Units

Data Processing Units (DPUs), sometimes also called Infrastructure Processing Units (IPUs), take the Smart NIC approach to the next level. Over and above the advanced off-loading that takes place on a Smart NIC, a DPU is designed to be a datacentre infrastructure-on-a-chip - optimised for machine learning, deep learning and high performance AI workloads. It delivers a broad set of accelerated software-defined networking, storage, security, and management services with the ability to offload, accelerate and isolate datacentre infrastructure.

By combining high-speed networking connectivity - usually multiple 100 - 200Gbps interfaces - with its own OS (usually Linux based), an array of processor cores for crypto, management and storage offloads, a DPU offers purpose-built, hardware-acceleration engines with considerable logic programmability. Sitting at the edge of the server, a DPU card empowers agile, secure and high-performance cloud and AI workloads, all while reducing the total cost of ownership and increasing datacentre efficiency.

Networking

Hardware Accelerated Applications:

• vSwitch/vRouter, NAT, load balancer, NFV
• RoCE, Zero Touch RoCE
• GPUDirect
• SDN acceleration powered by NVIDIA
• ASAP - Accelerated Switching and Packet Processing
• Overlay network offloads including VXLAN

Storage

Hardware Accelerated Applications:

• NVMe over fabrics (NVMe-oF), elastic storage virtualisation
• Hyper converged infrastructure (HCI), encryption, data integrity, compression, data deduplication
• NVIDIA GPUDirect
• Elastic block storage enabled by BlueField
• SNAP storage virtualisation
• Compression and decompression acceleration
• NVMe-oF acceleration
• VirtIO-blk acceleration

Security

Hardware Accelerated Applications:

• Next-Generation firewall, IDS / IPS, root of trust, micro- segmentation, DDOS prevention
• Hardened isolation layer
• Hardware root of trust
• IPsec/TLS and AES-XTS encryption acceleration
• Connection tracking for stateful firewall and IDS / IPS
• Regular expression (RegEx) matching processor

Data Processing Unit Specifications

Name Protocol Interfaces Maximum Speed Memory Host Bus RDMA / RoCE
NVIDIA Bluefield-3 Ethernet QSFP56 2x 200GbE / 1x 400GbE 16GB PCIe 5.0
Yes
NVIDIA Bluefield-3 Ethernet QSFP56 2x 200GbE / 1x 400GbE 16GB PCIe 5.0
Yes
NVIDIA Bluefield-3 InfiniBand QSFP56 2x 200Gb HDR / 1x 400Gb NDR 16GB PCIe 5.0
Yes
NVIDIA Bluefield-3 InfiniBand QSFP56 2x 200Gb HDR / 1x 400Gb NDR 16GB PCIe 5.0
Yes
NVIDIA Bluefield-2 Ethernet QSFP56 2x 100GbE / 1x 200GbE 16GB PCIe 4.0
Yes
NVIDIA Bluefield-2 Ethernet QSFP56 2x 100GbE / 1x 200GbE 16GB PCIe 4.0
Yes
NVIDIA Bluefield-2 InfiniBand QSFP56 2x 100Gb EDR / 1x 200Gb HDR 16GB PCIe 4.0
Yes
NVIDIA Bluefield-2 InfiniBand QSFP56 2x 100Gb EDR / 1x 200Gb HDR 16GB PCIe 4.0
Yes
FIND OUT MORE >

Speak to our server architects on 01204 474747 or at [email protected].

Network Switches

Network switches create the interconnects from the NICs, Smart NICs or DPUs within AI-optimised servers to each other and also allow server access for all the researchers on the network from their respective desktop PCs, laptops or workstations. Depending on what the deep learning and AI workloads are, will depend on which protocol, speeds and architectures will be required.

Typically, the highest speeds of over 100Gbps (Ethernet or Infiniband) enable deep learning & AI, HPC, datacentre, cloud computing and storage applications to operate at maximum functionality at any scale. For network switches with these capabilities NVIDIA Networking (formerly Mellanox) is the brand of choice.

High Performance Network Switch Specifications

Name Protocol Interfaces Maximum Speed Maximum Ports Data Throughput
NVIDIA ConnectX-7 SN4000 Ethernet QSFP56 / QSFP-DD 400Gbps 128 25.6Tb/s
NVIDIA ConnectX-6 SN3000 Ethernet SFP28 / QSFP28 / QSFP56 200Gbps 128 12.8Tb/s
NVIDIA ConnectX-5 SN2000 Ethernet SFP28 / QSFP28D 100Gbps 64 6.4Tb/s
NVIDIA ConnectX-7 QM9700 InfiniBand QSFP56 400Gbps 64 51.2Tb/s
NVIDIA ConnectX-6 QM8700 InfiniBand QSFP56 200Gbps 40 16Tb/s
NVIDIA ConnectX-5 SB7800 InfiniBand QSFP28 100Gbps 32 7.2Tb/s
VIEW THE NVIDIA NETWORK SWITCH RANGE >

To learn more about Ethernet, InfiniBand and advanced switch technologies click here to read our Network Switch Buyers Guide. Alternatively speak to our network architects on 01204 474747 or at [email protected].

Wireless Networking

Although wired networking is the common approach for deep learning and AI workflows due to their high demands and time-critical nature, wireless network connectivity may also be required in other areas of your organisation. When wireless connectivity is used to support elements of your business, it must also be reliable, consistent and fast. To guarantee this performance businesses are turning increasingly to managed solutions whereby the various access points that cover any given area are controlled by either a master wireless access point (WAP) or an external controller, thus enabling greater control. Benefits of a solution like this include improved seamless hand-off as users roam between access points, better load balancing of user access across the wireless network and enhanced security - increasing the ability to monitor and detect rogue users - either with non-compliant devices or unauthorised access.

Ubiquiti Networks provides a variety of high-performance managed wireless networking technology solutions for small offices, medium size business all the way up to enterprises, offering an outstanding price to performance ratio.

Wireless Access Point Specifications

Unifi WAP Name Wireless Protocol Ports Maximum Antennas
nanoHD 802.11ac Wave2 1x GbE (PoE+) 2.4GHz / 5GHz MIMO
In-wall HD 802.11ac Wave2 5x 1GbE (PoE+) 2.4GHz / 5GHz MIMO
FlexHD 802.11ac Wave2 1x GbE (PoE+) 2.4GHz / 5GHz MIMO
BaseStation XG 802.11ac Wave2 1x GbE (PoE+) 5GHz MIMO
VIEW THE UBIQUITI WIRELESS RANGE >

To learn more about wireless technologies click here to read our Wireless Buyers Guide. Alternatively speak to our network architects on 01204 474747 or at [email protected].

Airtime & Connectivity Services

Once you get to the inferencing stage in your AI journey, high speed and low latency connectivity is not only required within the datacentre and corporate network, but also outside in the real world, where edge AI devices gather data from cameras, sensors, vehicle and other connected end points. To address this wider connectivity requirement, Scan has partnered with Scancom and EE to provide a wide range of flexible SIM card options covering both 4G and the latest 5G bandwidths; and with BTnet to deliver leased line services for the datacentre.

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Professional Services

As your AI-optimised infrastructure grows and evolves, our team of professional services consultants are on hand to help with advice, network design or health checks, installation and configuration.

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New Network Infrastructure? Check your UPS!

It is vital to ensure that any new infrastructure equipment remains protected from power failures or surges by a UPS.

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