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Intel Previews Infiniband Migration Path

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 possible.

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 migration path. 

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

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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