Vendors, users launch Linux InfiniBand effort

A group of high performance computing users and technology vendors led by Sun Microsystems, Dell, and Intel will launch on Tuesday an effort to make the InfiniBand input/output architecture easier to use with Linux, according to companies involved in the initiative.

The effort, called the OpenIB Alliance, will work to build a common set of software utilities and InfiniBand hardware drivers as well as an implementation of a number of networking protocols, including IP (Internet Protocol) over InfiniBand, and the Message Passing Interface (MPI) protocol used in high-performance computing, members of the Alliance said.

"It's really focused on interoperability and getting all these companies cooperatively working on the marketplace around this software stack," said Stan Skelton, senior director of strategic planning with Engenio Information Technologies, one of the companies involved in the OpenIB Alliance.

Other companies involved in the alliance include Topspin Communications, Network Appliance, Mellanox Technologies, Voltaire, and Infinicon Systems, an OpenIB Alliance spokeswoman confirmed.

Two InfiniBand users -- Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory -- will be involved in the effort, she confirmed.

"Until now, each IHV (independent hardware vendor) has had to roll their own InfiniBand stack," said another OpenIB Alliance participant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There's been a lot of duplicated effort and a lot of competition where there could be cooperation," he said.

Though InfiniBand hardware vendors have provided their own proprietary software for use with InfiniBand, the OpenIB Alliance will mark the first time they have pooled resources to release software under an open-source license, the source said. "Now it's open source, so in addition to pooling the resources of the (vendors) we're engaging the user community, both in terms of being able to get patches and bug fixes, but also in terms of giving them a real voice in terms of how we're trying to harness the stack."

Eventually, project leaders would like the software to be a part of the standard Linux kernel, the source said.

The OpenIB Alliance will release software under two separate open source licenses, Skelton said. They are the BSD license used by the Berkeley Software Distribution operating system, and the GNU General Public License, used by Linux.

"While (the OpenIB Alliance) is focused first on Linux, there's no reason why this cannot be applied to the other operating environments," Skelton said.

A common Linux InfiniBand stack is a good idea, said Scott Studham, manager of computer operations with the Pacific Northwest National Lab's Molecular Science Computing Facility. "One of the hardest parts of adopting InfiniBand in high performance computing is getting a software stack that works," he said. "A lot of the vendors are overly zealous in saying that their stack is mature," he said. "When you try to do anything truly high performance with it, it doesn't work."

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