Startup offers InfiniBand iSCSI router

Start-up Voltaire Inc. recently gave users a peek at software that will let them link departmental or remote storage to servers in data centres, or connect tape drives or libraries to networks for backup.

At the recent Cluster World conference, the company said it plans to add iSCSI capability to its InfiniBand switch/router and host channel adapter. The iSCSI protocol lets Fibre Channel data be transported across Gigabit Ethernet networks. Currently, the company’s ISR 6000 switch/router connects network-attached storage arrays and other storage-area network arrays to InfiniBand-clustered servers via Fibre Channel.

The company’s iSCSI/InfiniBand software uses the Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) features built into InfiniBand to remove the overhead that iSCSI imposes, reduce latency and eliminate the need to install a separate Fibre Channel adapter when a server is connected to an InfiniBand fabric.

To enable iSCSI RDMA and InfiniBand, a user would insert an InfiniBand adapter in a server instead of a Fibre Channel adapter. The adapter, which would have iSCSI RDMA software installed, would communicate using iSCSI with the InfiniBand switch router.

Other vendors such as Topspin Communications Inc. and InfiniCon Systems Inc. already use an alternative to iSCSI RDMA over InfiniBand called the SCSI RDMA Protocol (SRP), which exchanges data between SCSI devices using RDMA. Unlike Voltaire’s approach, SCSI RDMA does not have a management infrastructure and is proprietary, the company says.

“Voltaire is using a more standard and universally accepted protocol called iSCSI, which is going to become prevalent a year from now,” says Arun Taneja, a senior analyst with Taneja Group. “SRP was done before iSCSI became the dominant protocol.”

In addition, the company announced that StoreAge Networking Technologies Inc.’s virtualization software will run on its ISR 6000 InfiniBand switch/ router, letting users congregate storage resources from disparate storage arrays into a pool for easier management.

Pricing of the iSCSI-enabled switch/router has not been announced. It is expected to be available this fall.