Intel Developer Forum showcases InfiniBand

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.

He expects most users will turn to Infiniband-enabled devices. But Bozman says she wouldn't be surprised to see other chip companies come out with bridge chips de­signed to let legacy servers connect to InfiniBand switches and newer enabled devices through a PCI connector.

The InfiniBand Trade Association, which is made up of more than 218 vendors, released Version 1.0 of the InfiniBand specification last fall and Intel has made components for products, such as the InfiniBand Host Channel Adapter and InfiniBand Switch. They have been available to manufacturers since January.

This story, "Intel Developer Forum showcases InfiniBand" was originally published by Network World.

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