My Vision for the OpenFabrics Alliance

Susan Coulter

Chair of the OpenFabrics Alliance

I first got involved with the OpenFabrics Alliance (OFA) six years ago when I attended its Developers’ Workshop as a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) network administrator. I had been working with InfiniBand and other high-speed interconnects, and I was looking for additional resources and communities to learn from. Since InfiniBand is a fairly complex technology to pick up, joining the OFA and attending the annual workshop was a way for me to build contacts within the OpenFabrics community and learn more about OpenFabrics Software (OFS). After a couple years as a workshop attendee, I saw tremendous value in the OFA and I wanted to become more involved. To that end, I had LANL reinstate its OFA membership and began attending monthly conference calls to dig deeper into the Alliance’s mission and activities.

As an end-user of OFS, the Developers’ Conference was somewhat out of scope for me. Learning about the code was great, but there seemed to be a missing piece. That piece turned out to be a program for network administrators to master the ins and outs of deploying, monitoring and troubleshooting RDMA interconnects. This led me to spearhead an effort to launch a separate User Group Workshop.

The OFS User Group Workshop acted as a distinct event from the OFS Developers’ Workshop, offering the end-user community its own forum focused on the implementation and administration of OFS and the underlying hardware. While this initiative effectively created a tailored program for administrators, there was no formal feedback or bridge between the administrator and developer communities. That is why this past year we combined the two workshops into a single event, creating a mechanism with which developers and users have an easy way to exchange feedback and improve the technology overall.

As the newly elected chair of OFA, my vision is to continue to facilitate collaboration between these two communities, and in doing so, continue to meet the needs of the High Performance Computing (HPC) industry, as well as other important customers of OFS. Computing technology is advancing quickly and recent developments, such as the proliferation of nonvolatile memory and the increased use of virtualization, will affect OFS. As an Alliance, we need to stay on top of these changes. Our software has to be able to handle the different types of RDMA implementations and deployments, which accelerate applications that require extreme speeds and massive scalability. This Alliance was formed to facilitate the innovation and interoperability of RDMA networks and their successful integration with current and emerging compute technology. I am confident that, if we remain committed to developing and promoting an open software that enables maximum application efficiency, we will stay interoperable with the ever-evolving world of HPC and enterprise data centers.

The OFA consists of many intelligent individuals who are advancing OFS and RDMA technology. This is a community that not only wants to make this technology work, but also wants to make it work better. I am excited to step into my role as Chair of OFA and work alongside such a great group of people on a very challenging and interesting technology.