April 10, 2012, 2:29 PM — This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.
High-performance computing, big data, Web 2.0 and search applications depend on managing, understanding and responding to massive amounts of user-generated data in real time. With more users feeding more applications and platforms, the data is no longer growing arithmetically -- it is growing exponentially. To keep up, data centers need to grow as well, both in data capacity and the speed data can be accessed and analyzed.
Scalable data centers today consist of parallel infrastructures, both in the hardware configurations (clusters of compute and storage) and in the software configuration (for example Hadoop), and require the most scalable, energy-efficient, high-performing interconnect infrastructure: InfiniBand.
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While Ethernet is used widely in data centers, it requires backward compatibility to decades worth of legacy equipment and its architecture is layered -- top of rack, core and aggregation. While this is a suitable match for a dedicated data center, for a fast growing and scalable compute infrastructure, this is more of a challenge.
InfiniBand was first used in the high-performance computing arena due to its performance and agility. But it isn't just InfiniBand's extreme low latency, high throughput and efficient transport (that requires little CPU power) that has made it the obvious choice for scalable data centers. Rather, it's InfiniBand's ability to accommodate unlimited-sized flat networks based on the same switch components, the capability to ensure lossless and reliable delivery of data, and it's capability of congestion management and support for shallow buffers.