InfiniBand: Bottleneck Breaker
InfiniBand could be the technology that helps VARs solve their customers' bandwidth problems.
With faster processors, streaming video, high-resolution graphics, and all the other applications that are eating up bandwidth, what's a network to do? One possibility is to get out from under the I/O (input/output) burden. Enter InfiniBand, the next white horse.
Within a few years, InfiniBand will be the default way of connecting servers to other servers, storage, and to network adapters and infrastructure. That's what David Pendery and Jonathan Eunice, authors of the Illuminata report "InfiniBand Architecture: Bridge Over Troubled Waters," predict. The report also states that this might somewhat displace Fibre Channel SANs.
InfiniBand Picks Up Where PCI Left Off
Where the PCI (peripheral component interconnect) was the I/O savior in the early 1990s, it is having a difficult time with growing databases, transaction loads, and network user bases. InfiniBand replaces the bus-based PCI with a high-bandwidth, switched network topology. It shifts I/O control responsibility from processors to intelligent I/O engines. These engines are known as channels. The major components of InfiniBand are HCAs (host channel adapters) and TCAs (target channel adapters).
According to the research firm IDC, the InfiniBand-capable server market will grow to almost 5 million units by 2004. This figure was claimed in an IDC report, "InfiniBand Architecture Transforming I/O Technology," authored by IDC analysts Jean S. Bozman and Vernon Turner.
"InfiniBand is poised to be a major force in the server market," said Turner. "Working with existing technologies, InfiniBand fabrics have the potential to alleviate the I/O bottlenecks that currently exist within Internet data centers."
According to the IDC report, each InfiniBand width drives 2.5 Gb/s (gigabits per second) in each direction. Current specifications call for 1-, 4-, and 12-wide link options, which correspond to 10 Gb/s for the 4-wide link and 30 Gb/s for the 12-wide link.
Lane 15 Software (Austin, TX) is one of the pioneer InfiniBand vendors with its Lane 15 product suite. Its product is designed to pave the way for the hardware and operating system vendors that will follow.
John Milburn, Lane 15 Software's senior director, marketing and business development said, "Currently, without InfiniBand, 80% of CPU time is spent waiting for I/O. By 2004, 75% of servers will have InfiniBand. InfiniBand will be accepted quicker than Fibre Channel was, because it is starting out with support from the InfiniBand Trade Association." The association (www.InfiniBandta.org), formed in August 1999, already has more than 200 members.
Joining Lane 15 in the InfiniBand market is IBM Microelectronics Division (Hopewell Junction, NY). IBM Microelectronics, in addition to being a sponsoring member of the InfiniBand Trade Association, offers InfiniBand products including HCAs, TCAs, and switches. These products are designed to enable end-to-end InfiniBand solutions and help customers transition cost-effectively from existing technologies.
InfiniBand Or Something Else? Stay Tuned To Business Solutions
InfiniBand stands ready to solve the bandwidth problems that face today's networks. But so do Fibre Channel and IP (Internet protocol). Which one will prevail? This is the question that Illuminata's John Webster brings up in his report "FC vs. IP vs. IB." How are you as VARs to know which technology to bring to your customers? It's possible that all three will prevail, each for different applications. One of the best things VARs can do to stay on top of technological developments is read publications like Business Solutions magazine. Not only are we focused on mass storage, we're focused on the channel.