First InfiniBand switch hits the 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, begins shipping this week.

InfiniCon Systems Inc.'s InfinIO 7000 Shared I/O System is a 10G bit/sec. switch that lets servers communicate directly with each other. The switch is aimed at reducing external connections in high-availability server clusters by up to 50 percent.

"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 10G bit/sec. InfiniBand 4X switch modules and up to eight plug-and-play I/O modules supporting Gigabit Ethernet, 2G bit Fibre Channel and 10G bit 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 $84,320.

The emerging InfiniBand market was dealt a pair of blows recently when Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. announced separately that they were stopping development work related to the server I/O technology. Intel in May dropped its plans for InfiniBand-related chips, 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 InfiniBand will become a data center fixture within the next couple of years. Pullouts such as the ones by Intel and Microsoft "are commonplace anytime there's a standard evolving," Taneja said, adding that Dell Computer Corp., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. are still solidly behind InfiniBand. "Those are the players who are going to make InfiniBand a volume technology."

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