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Mellanox Introduces Infiniband Prototypes

Although Intel Corp. architected the Infiniband standard, it is not the only vendor preparing to have products on the Infiniband scene. A startup chipmaker, Mellanox Technologies Inc., is offering its own Infiniband prototypes to developers and vendors.

Mellanox announced today that it has prototypes of its Host Channel Adapters for connecting servers to an Infinband network. The adapter consists of a device that slides into a PCI slot, and enables connections of up to 2.5 Mbps. Kevin Dierling, vice president of marketing at Mellanox, says that the company designed the device to give vendors and partners a sense of how Infiniband operates.

Intel designed Infiniband to replace traditional Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections in networks, for faster device-to-device communication. It moves some hardware tasks such as SCSI commands and IP stacks out to the edge of the network, enabling greater network and server performance. Dierling says Inifiniband also provides improved Quality of Service (QoS) features over IP networks or Fibre Channel.

Dierling expects to see Infinband used first as an internal architecture within servers, then as a connectivity standard for clustering, and other server-to-server communications. Storage will follow, he says, beginning with NAS implementations, then in SANs.

Vernon Turner, an analyst with IDC Corp., believes that Infiniband has the potential to shape the server landscape. “One of the constricting factors of the server world is the PCI bus,” he says.

Infiniband promises to improve the performance of networks by eliminating the I/O bottlenecks in the PCI bus. Instead of a bus, Infiniband uses a switched architecture. The switched architecture enables a machine to handle more I/O requests than the traditional bus, enabling user to get the most from their network infrastructure. “You can flood the channel and not have the limitations of the PCI bus,” Turner says.

Turner expects Intel, Mellanox, and others to have real-world deployments of Infiniband by the second half of this year. He believes that since Infiniband is a new technology, it will be used initially for connecting small, dense servers, rather than high-end database machines. Regardless, Turner is optimistic about Infiniband’s future. “This is going to be huge,” he says,” It’s going to bring mainframe connectivity to the Intel architecture.” - Christopher McConnell

About the Author

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

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