InfiniBand Vendors Embrace 10-GigE

Voltaire is the latest to forge a link between 10-GigE and InfiniBand

November 7, 2006

3 Min Read
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Recognizing that if InfiniBand is to make it as a data center technology it must play better with other protocols, Voltaire will offer a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet line card for its Grid Director switches. (See Voltaire Readies Switches.)

Voltaire isn't the only vendor that sees value in combining Ethernet and InfiniBand. Ethernet switch leader Cisco moved into InfiniBand last year when it acquired Topspin, and InfiniBand chip maker Mellanox is working on an architecture that integrates 10-Gigabit Ethernet and InfiniBand. (See Cisco Takes On Topspin and Cisco Joins 20-Gig InfiniBand Party.)

Last year, Myricom, a high-speed InfiniBand competitor, also embraced Ethernet. Myricom began shipping Myri-10G, a network that adds 10-Gbit/s Ethernet functionality and interoperability to the vendor's Myrinet gear. (See Myricom Sees Ethernet Light.)

InfiniBand proponents say it is faster, lower in latency, and less expensive than 10-Gigabit Ethernet. InfiniBand is considered the better fit for applications that need faster movement between CPUs or between compute and storage systems. That includes applications that handle high-speed transactional data.

"We're trying to move the debate from Ethernet or InfiniBand to a functional debate as far as what applications can best take advantage," Voltaire CTO Yaron Haviv says. "We realize there is a place for Ethernet as a LAN aggregation technology. It's ubiquitous and spans most enterprises as a standard. We also think there's room for InfiniBand in the data center. We're trying to make those two environments communicate as efficiently as possible."Voltaire's line card includes 22 InfiniBand ports and two 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports. That makes 24 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports available in a 288-port switch, allowing 240 servers to be connected to an InfiniBand backbone. The card, which Voltaire expects its server OEM partners to offer in the second quarter of 2007, will cost around $32,000.

The idea is to plug the switch into an Ethernet network, allowing companies to install and manage it as an IP device while taking advantage of the speed (up to 40Gbit/s) InfiniBand provides.

Analysts say it is not surprising that IP and InfiniBand vendors see a need for both technologies to live side by side. Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group says while InfiniBand was given up for dead a few years ago, there were no other technologies that could fill the high-speed, low-latency void.

"The reason InfiniBand came back is the problems that it is designed to solve didn't go away," he says. "If anything, they got worse. Cisco is the king of IP and if the king of IP says 'I need InfiniBand in my portfolio,' that says to the IP community that InfiniBand is important. But once InfiniBand started to move, people said, 'OK, there is a world of storage and people need to connect storage and the network, so how do I deal with it?'"

Greg Schulz of The StorageIO Group notes that Ethernet also dominates InfiniBand's primary HPC market."If you're going to play in the space where InfiniBand is making traction -- the high-performance computing space -- you need to do Ethernet," says Schulz. "HPC organizations are using Ethernet as well as InfiniBand."

Indeed, the most recent list of the world's Top 200 supercomputers showed more than half were using Ethernet while InfiniBand was also on the rise. (See Ethernet Enlarges Supercomputing.)

Like Cisco, Voltaire also sells virtualization software that serves as a framework for connecting InfiniBand, Ethernet, and Fibre Channel devices. (See Voltaire Readies Switches and Cisco Topspins Into Virtualization.)

As an InfiniBand device vendor, Voltaire competes with Cisco and QLogic, which also got into the space by acquiring a Voltaire rival. QLogic bought SilverStorm last month. (See QLogic Inches Closer to Cisco.)

Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX)

  • QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC)

  • SilverStorm Technologies Inc.

  • Taneja Group

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Voltaire Inc.0

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