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High-Speed Links Head for Mainstream

Suppliers are working hard to bring high-speed interconnection technologies from supercomputing sites to the more mundane realm of corporate data centers. And if consumers aren't ready for the migration -- and it seems quite a few are not -- they'll have to find ways to fight off a major pitchfest.

The Supercomputing 2005 conference next week in Seattle, for instance, will be the venue for a flurry of announcements about interconnecting data center systems and storage. A key aim will be to make technologies accessible to ordinary users as well as those employing high-performance computing (HPC).

There will be data center clustering wares from Microsoft, as well as Isilon and Panasas; InfiniBand storage systems from DataDirect Networks; and the unveiling of an interoperability partnership between Foundry and Myricom. A multivendor "cross-continental InfiniBand cluster" demonstration from the OpenIB Alliance will be featured. (See OpenIB Showcases InfiniBand.) And at least one startup, Obsidian Research, will claim a breakthrough in extending InfiniBand technology to support data replication on WANs.

The common denominator is bandwidth. For months now, suppliers have trumpeted InfiniBand, 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, and iWarp as faster ways to link systems and storage in consolidated data centers. What's more, as Fibre Channel vendors argue over whether to move ahead from 4-Gbit/s, InfiniBand is already hitting 20-Gbit/s in new Double Data Rate (DDR) equipment -- boosting its rep as a Fibre Channel replacement in transaction-heavy networks. (See Report Hedges High-Speed Bets, High-Speed Links Favor Ethernet, and Ohio Opts for iWarp.)

But lots of users aren't hearing their marching orders. InfiniBand is widely adopted for clustering in labs and is deployed inside NAS boxes, which continue to support faster upgrades, as next week's announcements will show. (See InfiniBand Gets Second Looks.) But InfiniBand doesn't support the distance extension that could make it a more mainstream technology.

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