What is Elastic Fabric Adapter (EFA)?

Elastic Fabric Adapter (EFA) is a network interface for Amazon EC2 instances that enables high-performance communication between instances in a cluster. It is specifically designed to enhance the performance of tightly-coupled distributed applications that require low-latency and high-throughput communication, such as those used in high-performance computing (HPC) workloads.

Here is a technical explanation of Elastic Fabric Adapter (EFA):

  1. Purpose and Context:
    • EFA is part of Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure and is aimed at providing a low-latency, high-throughput communication solution for EC2 instances.
  2. Architecture:
    • EFA is a network interface that attaches to an Amazon EC2 instance.
    • It operates in a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) environment and facilitates communication between instances within the same VPC.
  3. Features:
    • Low Latency: EFA is designed to provide low-latency communication between instances, making it suitable for applications that require fast and efficient data exchange.
    • High Throughput: It supports high-bandwidth communication, which is crucial for applications that need to transfer large volumes of data quickly.
    • Scalability: EFA is intended to scale with the number of instances in a cluster, ensuring that communication performance remains high even as the size of the cluster increases.
  4. Support for MPI (Message Passing Interface):
    • EFA is often used in conjunction with MPI, a standard communication protocol for distributed computing applications.
    • It enables EC2 instances to efficiently exchange messages, which is critical for parallel processing in HPC workloads.
  5. Integration with EC2 Instances:
    • EFA is integrated with the AWS EC2 instances and works with instances that support Elastic Network Adapter (ENA) and Enhanced Networking.
    • It is typically attached to EC2 instances at launch time.
  6. RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access):
    • EFA uses Remote Direct Memory Access technology to allow instances to communicate directly with each other's memory without involving the operating system.
    • This can significantly reduce communication overhead and improve performance.
  7. Driver and Software Stack:
    • EFA requires the installation of the appropriate EFA driver on EC2 instances to enable the communication interface.
    • The software stack includes the necessary libraries and tools to facilitate communication.
  8. Security:
    • EFA operates within the AWS security model, leveraging features such as Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) security groups and network access control lists (ACLs) to control communication between instances.
  9. Use Cases:
    • EFA is particularly well-suited for HPC workloads, scientific simulations, and other applications that require high-performance inter-instance communication.