Woven Readies 10-Gig Switch

Startup aims to challenge InfiniBand with low-latency 10-Gbit/s switch

April 17, 2007

3 Min Read
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After nearly two years in stealth mode, Woven Systems is about to launch its 10-Gbit/s switch technology and pitch it as a challenger to InfiniBand. (See Woven Weaves 10-Gig, Woven, and Top 10 Startups to Watch.)

The EFX 1000 is a 10-rack-unit-high, chassis-based switch, containing up to 144 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports. Woven is pushing it as a high-speed link between servers and storage. (See Future SANs Stir Debate.)

The EFX 1000 is set to start beta tests at the end of April and will finally be launched at Interop next month, according to Derek Granath, Woven's vice president of marketing. While he won't name any early adopters, he says the startup's initial target market includes Web hosting companies and Internet firms such as Yahoo and YouTube. (See Get Users Involved, Says Yahoo Boss and The Web Data Dilemma.)

"Some of the early applications are servers that are connected by Gigabit Ethernet to a switch that has 10-Gbit/s uplinks," he explains. He says a typical EFX 100 deployment would be a Web 2.0 company that needs to tie together "tens of thousands" of servers. (See In Search of Enterprise 2.0, IBM Exec Declares Web 2.0, and Keynote Monitors Web 2.0 Apps.)

Granath says the initial release will use the CX-4 Ethernet interface, with support for fiber optic interfaces and 10GBase-T built into future versions of the product. (See 10GBase-T Adapters Debut, More on 10GBase-T , and 10GBase-T Compliance in Doubt.) An entry-level EFX 1000 will cost around $40,000 and increase in price depending on the number of ports deployed.Woven is not the only vendor playing in the 10-Gbit/s space, and the startup faces stiff competition from the likes of Cisco, Foundry, and Force10. (See Force10 Round Hits $113M , Force 10 Fires Up Low Latency Switch, Foundry Speeds Apps , Cisco: Storage Stars in Earnings, and TIP: 10 GigE to Grow.)

Woven's claimed differentiator is an algorithm called V-Scale that speeds up packet throughput. "The algorithm allows us to use multiple paths on a network or a fabric," says Granath, adding that the EFX will connect with all 10-Gbit/s-compatible servers, storage, switches, and routers.

At least one analyst thinks that Woven has enough weapons in its armory to compete. "Their latencies are tremendously lower than the other guys' -- they are much closer to InfiniBand," says Joe Skorupa, research director at Gartner. For the vast majority of enterprise applications, Skorupa says, 10-Gbit/s Ethernet should suffice, although InfiniBand is still the best fit for some specialized work.

"I wouldn't use [10-Gbit/s Ethernet] for tightly coupled multiprocessor applications," he says, explaining that InfiniBand is better suited to certain time-sensitive financial trading applications. "[But] if you're doing a simulation where finishing a second or two earlier doesn't have an impact on a trade, then you would consider Ethernet."

InfiniBand itself will be tough to displace in those applications where, thanks to its availability and speed, it 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?)Still, InfiniBand has been largely synonymous with high-performance computing (HPC). Enterprises have given it a mixed reception, 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 planned to offer a 244-port chassis, but the vendor felt that this size of product would paint it into the HPC corner along with InfiniBand.

This isn't to say Woven will abandon the HPC space. As well as Web 2.0 applications such as wikis and blogs, Woven has also got its eye on some HPC processes such as oil and gas exploration. Granath claims the EFX 1000 could be used to link large clusters of file systems for data processing.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Force10 Networks Inc.

  • Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY)

  • Gartner Inc.

  • Woven Systems Inc.

  • Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO)

  • YouTube Inc.0

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