First InfiniBand switch hits market

The industry’s first switch that supports InfiniBand technology, which is aimed at reducing the complexity of server clustering and increasing I/O throughput speeds, began shipping last month.

InfiniCon Systems Inc.’s InfinIO 7000 Shared I/O System is a 10Gbps switch that lets servers communicate directly with one another. The switch is aimed at reducing external connections in high-availability server clusters by up to 50 per cent.

“The shared I/O focus is a good way to encourage the market to start [using InfiniBand],” said Arun Taneja, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass. “The question is, are enough pieces in place?”

Complete InfiniBand architectures would include switches, host bus adapters (HBA) and software. Vendors that are working on InfiniBand software due for release early next year include VIEO Inc. and Lane15 Software Inc. HBA vendors such as JNI Corp. and Mellanox Technologies Inc. also have products in the pipeline.

The InfinIO 7000 switch lets servers connect into a single high-speed InfiniBand link and integrate with existing Fibre Channel and Ethernet networks. Chuck Foley, CEO of King of Prussia, Pa.-based InfiniCon, said the switch removes the need for Fibre Channel HBAs and Ethernet network interface cards.

InfinIO consists of dual 10Gbps InfiniBand 4X switch modules and up to eight plug-and-play I/O modules supporting Gigabit Ethernet, 2Gbps Fibre Channel and 10Gbps InfiniBand expansion cards. Chassis slots can be populated with any mix of the modules and hot-swapped as needed. List prices for the switch run from US$26,740 to US$84,320.

Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. recently announced that they were stopping development work related to the emerging server I/O technology. Intel dropped its plans for InfiniBand-related chips in May, while Microsoft last month said it no longer plans to build InfiniBand management capabilities into the upcoming Windows .Net Server 2003 operating system.

But Taneja said he’s still confident that InfiniBand will become a data centre fixture within the next couple years. Dell Computer Corp., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. are still solidly behind InfiniBand, he noted, adding, “Those are the players who are going to make InfiniBand a volume technology.”

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