Increasing Infiniband

GCN Insider | Trends & technologies that affect the way government does IT

Ethernet companies seeking to reduce network load trek down a path long traversed by originators of another networking fabric architecture, Infiniband. In fact, Infiniband was designed specifically to reduce network overhead. So, to keep an edge over the lower-cost Gigabit Ethernet, Infiniband's chief chip-maker, Mellanox Technologies Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., just introduced its next-generation architecture, called ConnectX, according to Thad Omura, vice president of product marketing for Mellanox.

ConnectX will help Infiniband pull ahead of lower-cost Ethernet by paving the way for Infiniband adapters and switches that can do 20 and even 40 Gbps. Mellanox will introduce the first 40-Gbps Infiniband adapters later this year, and other network gear providers such as HP and Cisco Systems Inc. should also start to incorporate ConnectX-based chips in their own adapters and switches. Not only will Infiniband double and redouble 10-Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth capability, but the new design should slash latency to less than one microsecond, Omura promised.

ConnectX will also allow administrators to run either Infiniband or Ethernet over Infiniband cards, a radical break from the traditional separation of the two network architectures. Sometime in the next few months, Mellanox will introduce a dual-port Infiniband/Gig-E adapter. Either of the ports could be designated to run either of the protocols. Both Ethernet and Infiniband use the MicroGiGaCN physical connector.

Omura argued both technologies are needed for high-performance computer systems, where nodes may be tied together internally by Infiniband but contact with outside networks must be through some form of Ethernet. 'Today, [system designers] have to pick an Ethernet adapter, and then they have to pick an Infiniband adapter and make sure the two live happily together in the server,' he said. 'So we're taking away a lot of those integration worries.'

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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