But the companies drawing the biggest crowds, according to sources at the show, are Primarian Inc., Mellanox, and the frumious Banderacom: three startups working on InfiniBand target chips that sit in the storage devices and enable them to be part of an InfiniBand network. Among them, these companies have garnered more than $100 million in venture capital from top-tier VCs, including Sequoia Capital and U.S. Venture Partners. Its a niche right now, but if InfiniBand takes off as a switching fabric in the data center, these companies could clean up. Intel has investments in all three, just in case.
Intel originally invented InfiniBand to replace the PCI (peripheral component interconnection) bus in servers, but with momentum building behind SANs and next-generation storage architectures, Intel is now clearly repositioning it as a network fabric for connecting SANs (see InfiniSwitch Bucks Boost InfiniBand).
Its going to be very possible to build networks of servers and storage where the only connecting fabric is InfiniBand, and we have customers that are doing that, says Pappas. He named SAS Software, a Web analysis software company that has hooked up its data center using an InfiniBand network.
Analysts arent so sure. Intel is trying to push this further than its original design, which was simply to unify servers in a cluster, says Dan Tanner, storage analyst at the Aberdeen Group Inc.
They are overlooking human nature and the business factors already incumbent in storage networking. Fibre Channel is the establishment, and if anything poses a threat to this it's IP with its enormous market size, not InfiniBand.
The Force is strong with this one though. Over the course of the week, Intel is expecting around 30 InfiniBand announcements from companies in this field (see Net App Demos DAFS, Banderacom Demos Bandit, LSI Syncs With Intel, QLogic Builds Infiniband Bridge, and Prisa Gets on Infiniband Wagon).