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Ovni-net : a flexible cluster interconnect for the new OVNI Real-time simulator De Rybel, Tom

Abstract

The original OVNI Real-time simulator employs one of the lowest latency network solutions available today. However, with the advent of the MATE solution scheme, a new, more flexible interconnect solution became necessary. Also, the current system is limited in bandwidth and tied into the IDE hard-disk interface. This technology is soon to disappear, in favor of serial ATA. The new system presented circumvents any of the normal PC standard ports and is build directly on top of the industry-standard PCI bus. Also, the parallel connections between the nodes are replaced by high-speed full-duplex serial links, allowing for a system of larger physical size with a more manageable wiring solution. These enhancements yield in an even lower latency while significantly boosting the throughput. It also allows the hardware to be used on non-PC platforms such as Sun, Apple, HP, and IBM workstations. A major change to accommodate the flexibility of MATE was the incorporation of an intelligent shared-memory hub, avoiding many of the latency issues introduced by switched packet network solutions. To further boost the performance, no microprocessors were used in the network system. Instead, the required intelligence was distributed throughout the system and implemented locally in logic. This allows for a highly parallel operation of the interconnect with an absolute minimum of overhead. The integration of the new interconnect system and the MATE solution scheme is now so tight that the network system itself became part of the solution algorithm. However, due to the highly modular design approach, and the extensive use of FPGA technology, the system can be modified at will. Very different solution schemes and enhancements such as hardware error control, digital and analog I/O, and other features can be implemented without electrical modifications, allowing the same physical hardware to be used in both a research and a production environment. The result is a economic, obsolescence proof, flexible, high-speed low-latency cluster interconnect system build around industry-standard components.

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