Intel Previews Infiniband Migration Path
- By Scott Bekker
Intel’s upcoming Infiniband I/O architecture promises to replace the PCI bus for a high speed, switched architecture. Today, Intel gives users and vendors a preview by offering samples of Infiniband-capable PCI cards.
“We are on track to see Infiniband related products by
the end of 2001,” says Phil Brace, director of product marketing for Intel Corp.’s Infiniband initiative. Intel
hopes to get users ready for full-scale Infiniband implementations as soon as
While native Infiniband implementations are still some
time away, Intel hopes to prepare users for the Infiniband era by offering cards
to connect devices using the new Infiniband connectivity protocol.
The Infiniband protocol offers 2.5 Mbps connectivity in
initial implementations. It also has native Virtual Interface (VI) support for
performing network processing off-CPU.
Future Infiniband implementations will offer native
support in the chipset, eliminating the PCI-bus I/O architecture for a
switched-fabric architecture; however, the samples shipped today preview only the
upcoming Infiniband connectivity standard. “You’ll see both native and card
based approaches,” Brace says.
Brace says that until native Infiniband servers are
available, users will be interested in a migration path from PCI-based servers
to native Infiniband machines. The card-based implementations offer such a
Intel released samples of three different Infiniband
devices. The Host Channel Adapter connects servers to an Infiniband fabric via
a PCI card. The fabric is controlled using an Infiniband switch. Finally, the
Target Channel adapter offers connectivity from Infiniband to Ethernet, SCSI,
or other protocols.
These devices are expected to be deployed in either
server clustering or storage networking configurations. “You can have a
scale-out story, but a but also a high reliablility connection to your back-end
devices as well,” Brace says.
Intel also said that it shipped switch vendors Qlogic Corp. and Crossroads Systems, Inc. and SCSI vendors
Adaptec Corp. and LSI Logic Corp. samples for development
work. OEMs Compaq Computer Corp, and IBM Corp. also received test units.
Infiniband may fight an uphill battle as a connectivity
standard, at least until native Infiniband implementations arrive. Although its
2.5GBps bandwidth rivals top Ethernet and Fibre Channel speeds, with no
installed base, it lacks the momentum in the market.
Regardless, Brace is optimistic that the strategy for
moving I/O to the outside of the network will capture the market’s imagination.
“We’re really trying to ensure the ecosystem is there,” he says. - Christopher McConnell
Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.