InfiniBand to outpace Ethernet's unstoppable force

Run faster or be crushed


Comment Every good idea in networking eventually seems to be borged into the Ethernet protocol. Even so, there's still a place in the market for its main rival in the data center, InfiniBand, which has consistently offered more bandwidth, lower latency, and often lower power consumption and cost-per-port than Ethernet.

But can InfiniBand keep outrunning the tank that is Ethernet? The members of the InfiniBand Trade Association, the consortium that manages the InfiniBand specification, think so.

InfiniBand, which is the result of the merger in 1999 of the Future I/O spec espoused by Compaq, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard and the Next Generation I/O competing spec from Intel, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems, represents one of those rare moments when key players came together to create a new technology — then kept moving it forward. Sure, InfiniBand was relegated to a role in high-performance computing clusters, lashing nodes together, rather than becoming a universal fabric for server, storage, and peripheral connectivity. Roadmaps don't always pan out.

But since the first 10Gb/sec InfiniBand products hit the market in 2001, it's InfiniBand, more than Ethernet, that has kept pace with the exploding core counts in servers and massive storage arrays to feed them, which demand massive amounts of I/O bandwidth in the switches that link them. Which is why InfiniBand has persisted despite the onslaught of Ethernet, which jumped to Gigabit and then 10 Gigabit speeds while InfiniBand evolved to 40Gb/sec.

Now the race between InfiniBand and Ethernet begins anew. As El Reg previously reported, the IEEE has just ratified the 802.3ba 40Gb/sec and 100Gb/sec Ethernet standards, and network equipment vendors are already monkeying around with non-standard 100Gb/sec devices. At the SC09 supercomputing conference last fall, Mellanox was ganging up three quad data rate (QDR, at 40Gb/sec) InfiniBand pipes to make a twelve-port 120Gb/sec switch. This latter box is interesting, but it is not adhering to the current InfiniBand roadmap:

The InfiniBand Roadmap

InfiniBand is a multi-lane protocol. Generally speaking, says Brian Sparks, co-chair of the IBTA's marketing working group and the senior director of marketing at Mellanox, the four-lane (4x) products are used to link servers to switches, the eight-lane (8x) products are used for switch uplinks, and the twelve-lane (12x) products are used for switch-to-switch links. The single-lane (1x) products are intended to run the InfiniBand protocol over wide area networks.

As each new generation of InfiniBand comes out, the lanes get faster. The original InfiniBand ran each lane at 2.5Gb/sec, double data rate (DDR) pushed it up to 5Gb/sec, and the current QDR products push it up to 10Gb/sec per lane.


Other stories you might like

  • DuckDuckGo tries to explain why its browsers won't block Microsoft ad-tracker code
    Meanwhile, Tails 5.0 users told to stop what they're doing over Firefox flaw

    DuckDuckGo promises privacy to users of its Android, iOS browsers, and macOS browsers – yet it allows certain data to flow from third-party websites to Microsoft-owned services.

    Security researcher Zach Edwards recently conducted an audit of DuckDuckGo's mobile browsers and found that, contrary to expectations, they do not block Meta's Workplace domain, for example, from sending information to Microsoft's Bing and LinkedIn domains.

    Specifically, DuckDuckGo's software didn't stop Microsoft's trackers on the Workplace page from blabbing information about the user to Bing and LinkedIn for tailored advertising purposes. Other trackers, such as Google's, are blocked.

    Continue reading
  • Despite 'key' partnership with AWS, Meta taps up Microsoft Azure for AI work
    Someone got Zuck'd

    Meta’s AI business unit set up shop in Microsoft Azure this week and announced a strategic partnership it says will advance PyTorch development on the public cloud.

    The deal [PDF] will see Mark Zuckerberg’s umbrella company deploy machine-learning workloads on thousands of Nvidia GPUs running in Azure. While a win for Microsoft, the partnership calls in to question just how strong Meta’s commitment to Amazon Web Services (AWS) really is.

    Back in those long-gone days of December, Meta named AWS as its “key long-term strategic cloud provider." As part of that, Meta promised that if it bought any companies that used AWS, it would continue to support their use of Amazon's cloud, rather than force them off into its own private datacenters. The pact also included a vow to expand Meta’s consumption of Amazon’s cloud-based compute, storage, database, and security services.

    Continue reading
  • Atos pushes out HPC cloud services based on Nimbix tech
    Moore's Law got you down? Throw everything at the problem! Quantum, AI, cloud...

    IT services biz Atos has introduced a suite of cloud-based high-performance computing (HPC) services, based around technology gained from its purchase of cloud provider Nimbix last year.

    The Nimbix Supercomputing Suite is described by Atos as a set of flexible and secure HPC solutions available as a service. It includes access to HPC, AI, and quantum computing resources, according to the services company.

    In addition to the existing Nimbix HPC products, the updated portfolio includes a new federated supercomputing-as-a-service platform and a dedicated bare-metal service based on Atos BullSequana supercomputer hardware.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022