Infiniband Coming on Strong

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Yesterday we highlighted a company called NetXen that is merging iWARP and 10 GbE for a high-performance computer clustering solution, even if that means stepping on some well-established toes in the Infiniband segment.


Well, Infiniband vendors don't show any signs of rolling over, judging by the number of clustering solutions that have emerged recently.


This week, QLogic brought out the SilverStorm 9020 Enterprise Cluster Accelerator (ECA), a network director tailored toward Oracle Real Application Clusters that can hold up to 22 DDR 20 Gb Infiniband ports in a 2U enclosure. Qlogic isn't placing all its eggs in the Infiniband basket, however. The device can also be configured with up to four 10 GbE ports, 16 4 Gb Fibre Channel ports, or any combination of the two.


Also tapping into the Oracle 11g platform is Voltaire, which recently announced that its lines of Infiniband-based switches and software systems will support Real Application Clusters as well. The Voltaire line is led by the 20 Gbps Grid Switch, which also conforms to the OpenFabrics consortium's Reliable Datagram Sockets (RDS) over Infiniband system already in play on Linux, Windows and other operating systems.


Cisco is broadening its clustering capabilities with the SFS 3504 multifabric switch, providing Infiniband DDR gateway capabilities using both Fibre Channel and Ethernet-compatible modules for easy integration into existing networks. The company also released the Fabric Analysis and Correlation Toolkit (FACT) to speed up cluster configuration and reduce latency-causing errors.


And at the University of Texas, Sun Microsystems has been busy showing off its Constellation HPC system that matches a petaflop-level blade cluster with the X4500 storage system and a pair of Magnum Infiniband switches, each sporting a whopping 3,456 ports. The system will tie in to the TeraGrid cyber-infrastructure set up by the National Science Foundation.


Although Infiniband has carried a reputation as a high-priced networking solution best suited to large academic and top-tier enterprise applications, backers say that when it comes to clustering it offers both performance and price advantages over 10 GbE. The 10 GbE folks dispute this, naturally, but now that more product is making its way into the market, users will finally be able to decide for themselves.