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Mellanox: Pushing Infiniband With New Product

Mellanox Technologies has announced its second generation of InfiniBand switches and FabricIT chassis management software to support a wider range of users. The company had said in mid-2009 that it intended to do a family of switches, as well as a cabling solution, which it also announced. Mellanox, based in Yokneam, Israel, now offers IS5000 20 and 40Gbs switches ranging from 36 to 648 ports.

InfiniBand offers higher performance than other types of networking particularly because of its very low latency. "Our switch's latency is 100 nanoseconds," says John Monson, vice president of marketing for the company,  "Our nearest competitors are 125 to 180 nanoseconds." While this doesn't sound like much of a difference, it adds up. "Each time they have these communications, they have a delay. If you think about that many translations through the switch, it all multiplies." Applications that require such high performance and low latency include simulations in industry and government, according to Monson. Similarly, one user is moving from 2D fluid dynamics to 3D, and can only do it with the new generation of equipment.

In conjunction with new multi-core processors from Intel and AMD, the result is much higher efficiency, which allows users to improve performance while reducing their cost of ownership. "Operating expenses drop because you require fewer servers to do the same job, so the infrastructure shrinks," Monson says. While a gigabit Ethernet network might be 50 percent efficient, an InfiniBand network could offer 90 to 95 percent efficiency.

Each port of the switches can offer 40Gbps, meaning that a 648-port switch would have a throughput of 51.8Tbps. This provides four times the bandwidth at the same price point as 10GbE, meaning users can cut the number of servers in half due to the efficiency and utilization of the resource. While other vendors supply InfiniBand hardware, Mellanox' offers 20 to 30 percent less latency because the company is on its fourth generation of silicon, Monson claims. Though InfiniBand has been criticized for requiring special cabling, that's going to be required no matter which networking technology is used. "Any way you slice it, when you go to the next generation of capabilities, you are likely going to need to change your ecosystem relative to cable," says Monson.

"The Mellanox announcements offer more of an end-to-end approach that makes the networks easier to acquire for users," says Jie Wu, research director of technical computing for IDC analyst firm. "Users only need to deal with one vendor because the company has a wide range of product offerings, including the cabling." In addition, due to its improved silicon and technology as well as its fabric management software and cable certification and testing procedures, users are likely to see better performance than with competing products, Wu adds. The new products are available now, but the company would not provide pricing information.