Scalable Coherent Interface

The Scalable Coherent Interface is an IEEE standard originally designed to provide an interconnect for cache-coherent shared-memory systems. One of the first major deployments of SCI was on the Convex Exemplar SPP-1000 in 1994. SCI has not been able to gain ground in traditional networking markets, despite its ability to serve as a general-purpose interconnect. The main reason Beowulf designers choose to use SCI is for its low latency of well under 10 ^s. Current PC motherboard chip sets do not support the coherency mechanisms required to construct an SCI-based shared-memory Beowulf. But if that functionality is ever added to commodity motherboards, we may see an increase in the popularity of SCI as researchers experiment with shared-memory Beowulf systems. Seven years ago, SCI delivered many clear advantages, but today commodity network technology has caught up, although SCI still delivers significantly lower latency. Dolphin Interconnect offers an SCI-based interconnect for Beowulf systems along with closed-source binary drivers and an implementation of MPI tuned for the SCI network.

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