Users Bang InfiniBand Drum

High-bandwidth, low-latency interconnect continues to chip away at Gigabit Ethernet

June 28, 2007

3 Min Read
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More and more users are now opting for InfiniBand as a high-bandwidth, low-latency data center interconnect, according to the latest Top 500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers, which was released today. (See InfiniBand Boasts Growth.)

InfiniBand is the fastest-growing technology on the list, accounting for 127 of the fastest systems in the world, up from 78 in last November's list and 35 in the June 2006 survey. (See InfiniBand Take 2 and SGI Surges in HPC.)

This upward trajectory is matched by uptake of 20-Gbit/s InfiniBand, with the technology accounting for 55 systems on the list, up from zero this time last year. (See Ethernet Enlarges Supercomputing and IBM Dominates T0P500.) Increasingly, vendors such as Mellanox and Voltaire are touting 20-Gbit/s InfiniBand as an ideal fit for multi-core sytems that impose high demands on bandwidth. (See Voltaire Adds to 20-Gig Portfolio, Mellanox Boasts 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, and Mellanox Ships InfiniBand.)

Despite a strong showing from InifiniBand, Gigabit Ethernet remains the most widely used interconnect on the list, which is again headed by the Department of Energy (DOE)'s IBM Blue Gene/L system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). (See DOE Launches Storage Effort, Livermore Clusters Voltaire, and Livermore Taps Clustering.)

Some 207 systems on the list still use Gigabit Ethernet, down slightly from 211 last November and 256 this time last year.Although shadowy government labs and cone-head research organizations typically feature prominently on the Top 500 list, a slew of activity around InfiniBand over recent months suggests that the technology is poised to break out of this rarefied niche. (See HP Teams With Cisco, InfiniBand Goes Mainstream, Cisco Joins 20-Gig InfiniBand Party, and Cisco Doubles Up InfiniBand.)

In a report last month, analyst firm IDC highlighted the growing adoption of "HPC-like" applications in the energy and financial sectors as drivers of this trend. (See InfiniBand to Transcend HPC.) The consultancy predicted the InfiniBand switch market will grow from $94.9 million in 2006 to more than $612 million by 2011.

Users have cited the low latency of InfiniBand as ideal for storage networking, opening up the possibility of major storage grids, as the technology slowly moves into the mainstream. (See Interop: Mixed Messages on InfiniBand, and InfiniBand Ambivalence.)

More and more vendors are now getting in on this act, with the likes of Engenio and DataDirect Networks offering native InfiniBand storage systems, which let customers connect directly through InfiniBand switches, eliminating the need for Fibre Channel-to-InfiniBand bridges. (See InfiniBand Natives Stirring, Engenio Goes Native , and Verari Ships InfiniBand SAN.)

Today's Top 500 list also underlines the fast-moving nature of high-performance computing. The minimum performance required to make it onto the list is now 4.005 TFlop/s (trillions of calculations per second), up from 2.737 TFlop/s just six months ago. Underlining the increasing speed of supercomputers, the system ranked number 500 on the current list, an HP Superdome-powered system at German auto manufacturer BMW, would been ranked 216 only six months ago when the last list was produced.James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • DataDirect Networks Inc.

  • Engenio Information Technologies Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • IDC

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)

  • Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX)

  • Voltaire Inc.

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