10-Gbit/s startup Woven Systems is quietly plotting to take on InfiniBand

August 9, 2006

3 Min Read
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As more and more vendors tout 10-Gbit/s alternatives to InfiniBand, stealth-mode startup Woven Systems has been quietly racking up funding and building its own high-speed gear to link servers and storage. (See NetEffect Nails New Funding and Future SANs Stir Debate.)

Woven recently closed the second of two $5-million tranches of funding, led by Goldman Sachs and Palomar Ventures, for the development of a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switch aimed at enterprise server consolidation and storage networking. "What we're trying to do is combine the best features of InfinBand and Fibre Channel in an Ethernet fabric," explains Harry Quackenboss, Woven's CEO. "We're well underway with the development of the product."

Woven is not the only 10-Gbit/s specialist raking in the VC cash at the moment. Last week, NetEffect, a startup specializing in 10-Gbit/s Ethernet adapters based on iWarp -- a set of protocols designed to increase Ethernet's performance in high-performance computing (HPC) environments -- scored $25 million in Series B funding. (See NetEffect Nails New Funding.)

There's other iWarp activity, too. Chelsio, which recently received $12 million in funding, and Neterion, which has partnered with IBM, claim to be in preproduction as well, and Chelsio has tentatively put a timeframe of the first quarter 2007 for official release of its product. Broadcom, which purchased iWarp vendor Siliquent a year ago, is said to be readying a product for release by the end of 2006, but the vendor will not comment on the rumor. (See Broadcom Takes 10-Gig Shortcut, LSI Backs Chelsio, and IBM Selects Neterion.)

But thanks to its availability and speed, InfiniBand is seen as a good fit for short-range data center applications, within storage clusters, and between NAS devices and servers. (See Will Mellanox Make IPO Move?) The technology, however, has traditionally been synonymous with HPC, and Quackenboss feels that enterprises are looking for an alternative. "I think that InfiniBand has a pretty strong presence in HPC, but, beyond a few pilots, I don't see broad adoption in enterprises," he says.Certainly, enterprise users have given, at best, a mixed reception to InfiniBand, citing cost, lack of visibility, and limited interoperability with other technologies as major issues, although some proponents are hopeful of wider adoption. (See Interop: Mixed Messages on InfiniBand.)

Originally, Woven had planned to offer its switch in a 288-port chassis, although Quackenboss tells Byte and Switch that he has scaled this down. (See Woven Weaves 10-Gig.) "We have settled on a smaller chassis," he explains. "The larger HPC clusters want 288 ports per chassis, but we're targeting enterprise server and storage networking." While he wouldn't reveal more specifics, the exec confirmed that the switch will offer more than 100 ports.

"We have been talking to major end users and potential partners for feedback on the product," he adds. "These include both server and storage networking players."

There has, however, been some concern that the InfiniBand alternatives coming onto the market could lead users down a proprietary hardware path, although Quackenboss says that Woven's switch will link directly to standard Gigabit Ethernet gear, supporting applications such as Oracle clusters.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)

  • Chelsio Communications Inc.

  • Goldman Sachs & Co.

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • NetEffect Inc.

  • Neterion Inc.

  • Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL)

  • Palomar Ventures

  • Siliquent Technologies Ltd.

  • Woven Systems Inc.0

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