Intel Developer Forum showcases InfiniBand

By April Jacobs, Network World |  Hardware

Last week's Intel Developer Forum served as a showcase for InfiniBand, the new
bus architecture that promises to alleviate many of the bottlenecks clogging servers
and storage systems today.

InfiniBand is a switched-fabric I/O technology that ties together servers,
network devices and storage devices.

At the forum, a fully meshed InfiniBand-based network demonstration consisting
of products from Intel, Adaptec, Agilent Technologies, Compaq, Computer Associates,
Crossroads, LSI Logic and Q-Logic showed an InfiniBand environment by connecting
CPUs with one another and with peripherals such as storage systems and network
cards.

Other demonstrations at last week's IDF included:



Chip maker Banderacom; Lane15 Software, which makes InfiniBand management software;
and WindRiver Systems teamed to show off a Banderacom InfiniBand host server
connected to a prototype InfiniBand Target Channel Adapter built with Banderacom's
IBandit prototype chip set.

3Com demonstrated Ethernet network devices for connectivity. The demonstration
was designed to show how clients will independently run a variety of high-bandwidth
applications over InfiniBand, such as disk backup, MPEG-2 video and videoconferencing.

VIEO's InfiniBand management software family, which is designed to help users
set up and manage clustered applications.

Jean Bozman, a research director with market research firm IDC, says InfiniBand's
switch fabric bus architecture will allow users to accommodate many types of
traffic that will increasingly be crossing through their data centers, including
streaming video, voice and audio files - all of which now present bandwidth
problems.

The ultimate pervasiveness of InfiniBand systems is important for users, such
as those of IBM and Sun gear, because they will be able to select from a multitude
of hardware vendors, not a select few.



InfiniBand products should ease the bottlenecks that even the latest PCI-X-based
servers will have by creating a switched-fabric backplane that can handle 500M
byte/sec to 6G byte/sec speeds and offer throughput of up to 2.5G byte/sec.
Current architectures support 1G byte/sec.

Intel's Jim Pappas says InfiniBand's switch architecture is designed to help
network managers eliminate some of the wiring closet nightmares they now face
in trying to connect a range of devices.

The InfiniBand architecture calls for a single connection point between any
host device and a central InfiniBand switch, which directs traffic between devices.
Using current shared-bus technology, such as a PCI connection, each device must
have a separate connection through a designated port.



Pappas says Intel's current plans don't include backward-compatibility for servers
without InfiniBand connections.

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