Voltaire, Terrascale Pool Resources

InfiniBand and clustered file system startups partner for NAS, HPC connections

June 29, 2004

3 Min Read
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Voltaire Inc. today hooked up with clustered file system startup Terrascale Technologies Inc. in an effort to pick up steam in storage and help InfiniBand move up the ranks among high-performance computing (HPC) interconnect technologies (see Voltaire Launches Routers).

Voltaire will support Terrascale's parallel and clustered file system to allow companies to connect servers with direct-attached storage into a distributed file system, or to use InfiniBand for a NAS backbone.

Terrascale provides software for running pooled storage on multiple servers without the need for an additional file system (see Terrascale Plans I/O Onslaught). InfiniBand gives Terrascale a high-speed, low-latency backbone over which to run its file system.

"The limitation with Terrascale has been, 'How do I connect to 100 servers?' " says analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group. "Well, I can connect through Ethernet, but I'll pay the price with Ethernet being 1-Gbit/s throughput and high latency. Connectivity with InfiniBand will boost performance."

Voltaire marketing VP Arun Jain says he hopes the Terrascale relationship will help to make InfiniBand more of a storage play. "We are an interconnect company, and now we'll focus on the storage side," he says.For now, the Voltaire-Terrascale combination will probably play better in HPC than on the storage side. For instance, the Ohio Supercomputing Center is running Terrascale's file system over a 128-node Voltaire InfiniBand cluster in an attempt to increase throughput and lower metadata access latencies.

InfiniBand can still use the help in the HPC environment. Gigabit Ethernet remains the world's most popular method for linking HPC with 159 sites, according to the latest Top 500 Supercomputer Sites list, released earlier this month (see HPC List Shows Interconnect Status). InfiniBand brings up the rear with only ten sites. Still, InfiniBand was up from just three sites the previous year, and InfiniBand vendors hope recent technology advances will help it make more headway.

For instance, Voltaire in April announced a 288-port, 10-Gbit/s switch (see Voltaire Touts Largest InfiniBand Switch). Voltaire and Topspin Communications Inc. each have InfiniBand to Fibre Channel and InfiniBand to IP routers, and each supports the ability to boot off storage from a server in an InfiniBand cluster (see Voltaire Launches Routers and Can Topspin Boot Egenera?).

Taneja says InfiniBand enjoys technology advantages over Ethernet, for example 10-Gbit/s speed and remote direct memory access (RDMA) support for low latency, that will take Ethernet well over a year to match.

"InfiniBand isn't the panacea we envisioned a few years ago, but it's definitely on the upswing," he says. "I don't see an equivalent alternative today, if you want high-speed clusters."Voltaire might not have the advantages from Terrascale to itself for long, though. Voltaire is its first partnership, but Terracale's software also works with networks running Gigabit Ethernet and Myrinet, another interconnect technology ahead of InfiniBand on the Top 500 Supercomputer Sites list (see Myricom Intros New Switches).

Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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