InfiniBand Momentum the Crux of ClusterWorld

Leading rivals and vendors of InfiniBand interconnect technologies are kicking off the ClusterWorld Conference and Expo show Monday with new products geared to speed up and improve the connectivity of servers.

Capable of piping data at 30 gigabits per second, InfiniBand is prized for its performance and price advantages for high-speed networking. The technology also features low switching latency and Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) capabilities to accelerate applications running in high performance computing (HPC) and enterprise environments.

Amid the flurry of releases as part of the San Jose, Calif.-based show is Topspin Communications, which unveiled a new InfiniBand switch as part of its quest to solidify itself as preeminent connectivity provider for systems vendors looking to provide server clusters or blade servers in grid fashion.

The Mountain View, Calif. company announced the Topspin 270 server switch, along with similar announcements from rivals Voltaire and InfiniCon at the ClusterWorld show in San Jose, Calif.

The 270 builds on the company’s building block portfolio to offer
interconnect technologies to help speed the computing power in systems from partners Dell, Sun, IBM and NEC, according to Stu Aaron, vice president of marketing and product management for Topspin.

Aaron told the 270 is the first InfiniBand switch to address the reliability and serviceability limitations associated with traditional high-performance clustering interconnects, such as Myrinet.

Aaron said Topspin was able to work around service and availability
roadblocks required by systems vendors making HPC products by creating a “Rapid Service” architecture. This splits active electronics and cables to opposite sides of the switch to enhance access, manageability and uptime.

Aaron said this is what makes the 270 a building block in the foundation for clustering computers for HPC functions and the differentiator between Myrinet, which he said suffers from a syndrome called “draining the fabric,” in which switching electronics and cabling exist on the same board.

This means that any time there is a connector failure, the switch has to be taken offline for manual repair, which can be lethal for business. Aaron said the 270 allows customers to deal with connector failures, or switch from copper to fiber interfaces with mere seconds of downtime, as opposed to the several minutes it takes to sort through snarled, faulty cables.

The 270 supports up to 96 ports of 4X InfiniBand at 10 gigabits per second or 32 ports of 12x InfiniBand in a chassis measuring six units. This is a significant step up from the Topspin 120, a 24 port 4X or 8 port 12X InfiniBand switch and is designed to plug-an-play with the Topspin 360, an I/O chassis and the Topspin 90, a compact version of the Topspin 360.

The Topspin 270 will be available by the end of May but will be on display this week in Topspin’s booth #507 at ClusterWorld.

Similarly, Bedford, Mass.’s, Voltaire Monday unveiled the ISR 9288, a high port density InfiniBand switch for large scale server clusters and grids. The Voltaire ISR 9288 features 288 ports of 10 Gbps of bisectional bandwidth in a single chassis.

Like the 270, this switch allows HPC customers to build very large clusters with fewer switching components to reduce total cost of ownership. The ISR 9288 features multi-protocol connectivity and the switch chassis hosts Voltaire’s router blades to connect server clusters, fibre channel storage area networks and NAS appliances.

Available in Q3 2004, the ISR 9288 also provides comprehensive management and diagnostics capabilities, including provisioning, performance management and fast fabric initiation.

Lastly on the InfiniBand front, King of Prussia, Pa.’s InfiniCon Systems said the National Tsinghua University of the People’s Republic of China has selected InfiniCon to supply a 10 Gbps switch fabric for a 128-node, InfiniBand-based cluster.
The university will deploy the cluster to support research projects.

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