Infiniband and the Blade


Say what you will about the relative merits of blade architectures, but the platform certainly has been a boon to Infiniband now that more and more HPC outfits are looking at clustered server solutions.


SC08 showcased a clear trend toward Infiniband/blade solutions, offering high-end shops the kind of interconnectivity that Ethernet is not likely to see until well into the next decade.


The most powerful solution in the field comes from the union of Mellanox' new 40 Gbps ConnectX adapter and the Dell PowerEdge M1000e enclosure. The combo, which also features Mellanox' InfiniScale IV switches, relies on the Dell blade's advanced mid-plane design to accommodate the quad data rate (QDR) capability of the ConnectX adapter. Organizations that deploy this solution will at least double their I/O bandwidth for highly clustered applications.


Part of the need for increased I/O is being driven by advances in chip architectures. SGI is planning on the new line of Nehalem Xeon processors from Intel, as well as existing Itanium devices, for its Altix ICE cluster, says The Register. As such, the company is already building Altix backplane and switches around dual-rate (DDR) Infiniband, with plans for a twin, two-socket single-blade board using QDR Infiniband next year.


Super Micro is also getting in on the action, describing its Twin and 4-way/2-way blade and rack server line as a breakthrough in the area of "personal supercomputers," according to MarketWatch. The 10-blade system is based on the SBI-7125C-T3 machine and will accommodate either Infiniband or 10 GbE to unite either the Intel Nehalems or the AMD Shanghai processors. The system can accommodate up to 84 servers in a standard 42 U rack.


It's easy to see why Infiniband is the interconnect of choice for those who can afford it. The format is expected to top 80 Gbps by 2011 with plans already under way for a 160 Gbps version. Those speeds are node-to-node, by the way-switch-to-switch speeds are capable of hitting 120 Gbps. That may be part of the reason IDC predicts a nearly 50 percent increase in Infiniband deployments by 2011, pulling more than $650 million in revenue.


The caveat, though, is in the words "those who can afford it." Infiniband will remain the high-end solution, leaving Ethernet to the vast majority of bread-and-butter enterprises. But I have a feeling that suits the Infiniband community just fine.