Topspin rolls out interconnect fabric

Expanding its switched computing offering, Topspin Communications on Monday announced a new low-end system that allows enterprises to do distributed database clustering and so-called low-end high-performance computing.

The new platform, Topspin 90 Switched Computing System, is a 1U-high switch with 12 Infiniband ports and a built-in expansion port that can house a Topspin-developed HCA (host channel adapter) module with four additional Infiniband ports, a module with two 2Gbps FC (Fibre Channel) ports, or a module four 10GbE (10Gigabit Ethernet) ports.

Topspin believes the creation of the Topspin 90 will complement the startup's high-end Topspin 360 Switched Computing System. The 360 platform is 4U-high, features a switched 10GBps Infiniband interconnect, and two 12-port Infiniband blades used to make server-to-server connections, as well as 12 expansion ports that can be either populated with the same FC, Ethernet, or Infiniband modules that now work with the Topspin 90.

"A fixed 8-port switch has limited attachments," said Ben Eiref, director of product marketing at Topspin, referring to the switches many of its competitors manufacture including 8-port Infiniband-only switches from InfiniCon systems, Paceline, and JNI. "We see the 90 as an entry point for basic server clustering and as a way to terminate FC instead of going straight to the server."

Eiref pointed out that not only are the competitive offerings only 8-ports, but that they are only Infiniband, whereas the Topspin system can be FC, Ethernet, or Infiniband.

The Topspin family is the type of product that Michael Peterson, president of Strategic Research, calls "system interconnect fabrics."

Peterson explained that a distributed architecture that ties blades, storage, and other computing resources together is what is needed. He added that Topspin is the only vendor taking this path.

"Topspin is doing the right thing," Peterson said. "Most others are building technology and waiting for the system guys to create the market."

He explained that it won't be the system and server vendors that get this market started but the application vendors. He also pointed to Topspin's forthcoming performance numbers in comparison to a server running a database application. These numbers show improved throughput, reduced latency, and improved CPU utilization.

"Oracle will become the driver, not the systems guys," Peterson added. "This is a new class of database acceleration."

Like the 360, purchasers of the 90 will have to populate each server with a TopSpin-developed 10Gbps Infiniband-based host channel adapter. The management software developed for the 360 also works with the 90 explained Stu Aaron, vice president of marketing and business development at Mountain View, Calif.-based Topspin.

Aaron and Eiref believe it is only a matter of time before platforms such as the 360 and 90 begin to take hold in the market. With 12 units in beta at several potential customers, they believe large system vendors such as IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems will become interested in this distributed architecture when markedly improved application performance can be demonstrated. Supporting figures, say Eiref, are a couple of weeks away.

"We've achieved great performance with Oracle and IBM databases," Eiref said. "Application performance is the linchpin."

Topspin also believes that, having rounded out its offering with a low-end system, server vendors may begin to consider partnering, reselling, or reference-selling Topspin's systems sooner rather than later.

"Last year nobody had a full solution," Eiref said. "We now have two systems, modules, and software."

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