InfiniBand grabs enterprise foothold

Storage startups are looking to elevate InfiniBand from HPC (high performance computing) environments to the enterprise at this week’s ClusterWorld Conference in San Jose, Calif.

Leading the charge to garner adoption of the low-latency, high-speed interconnect is Bedford, Mass.- based Voltaire Inc. The company will announce an InfiniBand router that delivers storage traffic to either an FC (Fibre Channel) or an IP-based SAN.

The new addition to the Voltaire family of InfiniBand products accomplishes this delivery by replacing TCP/IP with InfiniBand as the transport layer within the switch to deliver iSCSI (Internet SCSI) traffic.

Arun Jain, vice president of marketing at Voltaire, believes this approach is better than using the competing SRP (SCSI Remote Protocol). However, he doesn’t feel it will have the support and management of the more mature iSCSI protocol.

The new router blade plugs into Voltaire’s ISR (InfiniBand Switch Router) chassis and transports iSCSI commands straight from the server with the speedy 10Gbps InfiniBand technology. “InfiniBand has had early success as a clustering technology with databases and in HPC,” Jain said. “Now once a customer has clustering, they then ask how to connect to a storage environment.”

Chuck Foley, president and CEO of InfiniCon Systems Inc. based in King of Prussia, Pa., agrees the “other” 10Gbps interconnect is moving into mainstream. He said InfiniBand is gaining wider market acceptance with IBM’s DB2 support; and Oracle 10i support expected later this year. Network Appliance is also drawn to InfiniBand for its speed, he said.

However, Foley acknowledges that for the technology to get true mainstream adoption, a tier-one server vendor needs to offer servers with native support, and more applications need to be designed to take advantage of InfiniBand’s clustering capabilities.

Also at the show, Topspin Communications Inc. announced that Cornell University and the University of Washington are using its 360 Switched Computing System for HPC environments.