Intel's Pappas says InfiniBand is the future

The traffic jam where data tries to get from servers and storage to the Internet will soon be a thing of the past if the companies behind the InfiniBand standard have anything to say about it, Intel's Jim Pappas said at the Applied Computing Conference and Expo here Monday.

The InfiniBand standard is poised to become a mainstay in the server and data storage market, and with companies like Intel, Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. backing the standard, it's hard to ignore it, said Pappas, who is the director of initiative marketing in Intel's enterprise platform group.

The companies are betting InfiniBand will become the successor to the PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) bus system of linking servers and storage to each other, as well as the Internet.

InfiniBand is a little bit like USB (universal serial bus) for servers, except where USB can transfer 12M bytes per second, InfiniBand has a transfer rate of 2.5G bytes per second, Pappas said. The key is the "dual simplex" method of transferring data -- instead of just sending data through a connector, InfiniBand splits the data into two directions, like a highway, with inbound data and outbound data in separate channels.

"Some people say the name came from infinite bandwidth, and theoretically, it can deliver that," Pappas said. Because servers aren't limited to a single InfiniBand cable, adding more connections would not only serve as a failsafe, it would also increase transfer speeds, he added.

The hope is that InfiniBand will do for Internet data centers and the server industry what USB did for PC peripherals, Pappas said. However, while there are 1,100 companies currently developing USB products, only 50 companies have announced plans to build InfiniBand products, but they have already released 106 test products in the two years since InfiniBand was created.

The first InfiniBand products will hit the market in the fourth quarter of this year, and a number of companies have announced that their products will be among the first available, Pappas said.

The other members of the InfiniBand Trade Association are Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems.