Voltaire Adds to 20-Gig Portfolio

InfiniBand vendor promises more speed, less power consumption than 10-Gbit/s Ethernet

June 12, 2007

4 Min Read
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InfiniBand specialist Voltaire has unveiled a 20-Gbit/s switch device, which it's promoting as a way for users to cut their power and cooling costs. (See Voltaire Delivers Next-Gen Switches, The Big Chill, and Summer Storage Survival.)

Today the vendor took the wraps off the ISR 2012, a 288-port, 16U-high chassis, containing up to 12 switch blades built on silicon from Mellanox. Voltaire claims the ISR 2012 can slash power and cooling costs over 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches. (See 10-Gig Trends Up, Mellanox Boasts 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, and Brocade Busts Out 10-Gbit/s Plans.)

Because of the high port density on the ISR 2012, Voltaire claims the switch uses just a fraction of the power compared to separate, smaller, 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches. "We require 10 to 15 percent the amount of power and cooling for a similar configuration that would use 10-Gig," says Patrick Guay, the vendor's senior vice president of marketing.

Power is an increasingly hot topic in enterprise data centers, prompting a flurry of activity from vendors looking to capitalize on users' spiraling energy costs. (See Big Blue Launches Big Green, Copan Pushes Power Savings, Storewiz Joins Green Grid, and Verari Speeds Off With $20M.)

Taneja Group analyst Arun Taneja told Byte and Switch that there is truth in Voltaire's power claims. "10-Gig Ethernet switches are power hogs," he says. "By the nature of Ethernet, they consume significantly higher power, they have much higher latencies, and they require more cooling."But before Voltaire rides off into the sunset with a bunch of new customers, Taneja cites the presence of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet newcomer Woven Systems as a possible challenger. (See Woven Readies 10-Gig Switch, Woven Weaves 10-Gig, and Top 10 Startups to Watch.) "They seem to have found a way to reduce latencies to more near the InfiniBand level and reduce the power [needed]."

Woven, which emerged from stealth less than a month ago, has built its own 10-Gbit/s chassis-based switch based on an algorithm which it claims can significantly reduce packet latency and increase throughput. (See Woven.) The startup is now positioning itself as a challenger to established InfiniBand players.

In the InfiniBand space, Voltaire is up against Cisco, which offers its own 20-Gbit/s, 288 port switch; and QLogic. (See Cisco Joins 20-Gig InfiniBand Party, Cisco Doubles Up InfiniBand, and QLogic Lowers Outlook.)

Like its rivals, Voltaire asserts that InfiniBand is now breaking into mainstream enterprises. "The area that we're seeing a tremendous amount of interest is in financial services," says Guay, explaining that many firms are using the interconnect to deliver market data more quickly.

A slew of activity around InfiniBand over recent months suggests that the technology is poised to break out of its rarefied niche in government research labs and supercomputing centers. (See HP Teams With Cisco and InfiniBand Goes Mainstream.) 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.Voltaire, also rumored to be working on an IPO, would not reveal exactly how many customers are using the ISR 2012, although Guay confirmed that around 20 units have already been shipped. (See IPO Talk Strikes Voltaire.) Some of the switches went to Voltaire's OEM partners IBM, HP, and Sun, although the exec says others went direct to end users, only one of which, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has been made public. (See Livermore Clusters Voltaire.)

The lab, which has a longstanding relationship with Voltaire, is apparently using the ISR 2012 as part of a large-scale scientific research project. (See Livermore Clusters Voltaire.)

This is not the first time Voltaire has made a 20-Gbit/s InfiniBand move, and follows the launch of a 20-Gbit/s line card last year, and a smaller switch chassis, the 9288, back in 2004. (See Voltaire Delivers 20 Gbit/s.)

The ISR 2012, which is priced at around $1,000 per port, is available now.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • IDC

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)

  • Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX)

  • QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Voltaire Inc.

  • Woven Systems Inc.0

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