InfiniBand Spec Nears

SAN MATEO (04/28/2000) - When the final InfiniBand specifications are released later this year by the InfiniBand Trade Association, the I/O technology will not only provide 2.5GBps of data throughput but also could allow for radical changes in the way networks are configured, thus altering the role of the server and simplifying what has been the complex task of deploying a network.

InfiniBand, a switched fabric data throughput specification for as many as 64,000 nodes, will replace shared buses, allow for multiple cable attachments to optimize data transfer, and will give IT the freedom to spread out the network into task-specific devices, according to Jim Pappas, director of initiative marketing for the Fabric Components Division at Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, California. It will also enable simpler, faster attached storage systems and eliminate the need for hard drives -- or any storage device, for that matter -- inside the server, Pappas said.

"I think most storage and server companies are aware that InfiniBand is coming," Pappas said, noting that servers are being freed from having to manage storage.

Recent trends toward attached storage systems and off-the-network, Internet-based storage have indicated that the industry is quickly moving toward network architectures that leave the servers with little more to do than drive data.

Dan Warmenhoven, CEO of Network Appliances, in Sunnyvale, California, made his case for Internet storage, going so far as asserting that servers "make very inefficient data managers and data access devices."

With InfiniBand's release on the horizon, companies will certainly begin to ramp up network solutions that separate servers from storage duties all together, according to observers.

Evidence of this came last week during an announcement from EMC.

The centerpiece of the announcement was the Symmetrix 8000 series of storage systems, which are capable of holding 19.1 terabytes of data, just shy of doubling the capacity of that line's predecessor. Company officials believe the new system offers an alternative to traditional server-based systems, which they say are becoming antiquated.

"Servers will continue to play a role for things like data processing, but increasingly we see [that segment] as a commodities market. We don't think we will be investing much in them in the future," said Mike Ruettgers, CEO of EMC.

The new EMC products presage advances that could benefit large IT shops by the year 2003.

Ruettgers and members of his executive team claimed that deployment of such technology will allow typical corporate sites to have one pedabyte of data available online, meaning that most servers will not require hard drives because the bulk of the data will reside in a central, networked storage location.

Developed jointly by member companies from all facets of the IT industry, InfiniBand will have cross-platform compatibility, simplifying networks even more by allowing mixed-vendor config-urations.

The InfiniBand Trade Asso-ciation, in Portland, Oregon, is at www.infinibandta.org. EMC Corp., in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, is at www.emc.com.

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