Mellanox Doubles InfiniBand

The first 20-Gbit/s NICs and switch chips unveiled to OEMs

June 18, 2005

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Mellanox Technologies Ltd. is set to announce adapters and chips that double InfiniBand's data rates. Starting at be next week's International Supercomputer Conference in Heidelberg, Germany, the 20- and 60-Gbit/s silicon will be offered to makers of fabric switches, grid server blades, storage gear, and networking devices for telecom and enterprise use. The vendor says pricing will be less than 30 percent over existing wares.

This is the first public annnouncement of InfiniBand double data rate (DDR) technology, a method of increasing InfiniBand speeds at the semiconductor level. Since Mellanox sells its InfiniBand silicon to a broad range of suppliers and OEMs, it could herald some interesting stuff.

Isilon Systems, for instance, offers optional InfiniBand connections, based on Mellanox technology, between its clustered storage systems (see Isilon Embraces InfiniBand). The vendor will add DDR as well. "We applaud Mellanox for driving this technology into the marketplace," says Brett Goodwin, VP of marketing and business development, in a prepared statement.

Isilon and other storage vendors with an eye on data-intensive markets such as oil and gas, media and entertainment, and healthcare, like DDR's prospect of doubling network connections to memory, thus increasing the links between clustered NAS. After all, with 20-Gbit/s between devices, who needs 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel?

Another -- albeit cryptic -- kudo comes from Engenio Information Technologies Inc.: "A 20-Gbit/s InfiniBand connection provides the highest performance available on a single industry standard I/O storage link," says Bret Weber, director of architecture at Engenio, in a prepared statement.That's a big hint, following rumors that Engenio could be the first array vendor with an optional InfiniBand interface (see Mellanox Stakes 10-Gig Claim). Sources at Engenio did not return a call for comment at press time.

So what's not to love? InfiniBand still isn't Ethernet, that's what. Some say that no matter how fast InfiniBand gets, it's going to be expensive to implement, particularly for SMBs. Suppliers like Ammasso Inc., for instance, say their techniques speed up server-to-storage links without requiring modifications or hiring InfiniBand experts (see Ammasso Amasses $7.5M).

At least one analyst thinks InfiniBand's hour has come, even though it won't last. "DDR should definitely help... It provides a fatter pipe to memory... At this point, InfiniBand's price/performance/power use ratios are better than Ethernet's," says Jag Bolaria of The Linley Group consultancy. But in two to three years, that's bound to change, as Ethernet catches up.

Meanwhile, InfiniBand could make quite a bit of hay, and Mellanox appears to hold the thresher -- for now. Mellanox OEMs include Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), through its purchase of Topspin Communications (see Cisco Takes On Topspin), SilverStorm Technologies (formerly Infinicon), and Voltaire Inc. Mellanox also supplies ATCA server vendor Diversified Technology Inc., though DTI hasn't yet pledged to support its DDR kit.

This announcement also marks Mellanox's exit from the market as an end-user supplier. While it formerly offered InfiniBand switches of its own, management's decided to quit competing with customers. The policy is official as of the end of this month.Mellanox is offering two kinds of InfiniBand DDR elements: host channel adapters, or cards that can be built into servers, and storage devices, or InfiniBand switches to link them all in data centers. Mellanox also is selling silicon for interswitch links.

Mellanox says the gear will increase server-to-server data rates on host channel adapters from 10 Gbit/s (via four 2.5-Gbit/s channels) to 20 Gbit/s (via four 5-Gbit/s channels). Between switches, new silicon will increase rates from today's 30 Gbit/s (via twelve 2.5-Gbit/s channels) to 60 Gbit/s (via twelve 5-Gbit/s channels).

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights