Feature

New life for InfiniBand

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InfiniBand storage is finally emerging; but despite the cost, speed and scalability advantages over Fibre Channel, its acceptance has been slow in enterprise data centers.

If you work with high-performance computing (HPC), you probably interconnect clustered nodes through an InfiniBand (IB) fabric. For network and storage administrators not up to speed on the technology, it's time to put IB on your radar.

Scientific and academic researchers have known about IB for years. Its high-speed, low-latency architecture is an ideal interconnect for thousands of cooperative commodity servers running a single file system under an operating system like Linux. IB deployments are finally moving beyond the ivy walls of academia and popping up in corporate data centers to solve specific computing and storage problems that require high performance at a relatively low cost.

While IB has come into its own as a computing architecture, the storage implications of HPC are only now being addressed. The torrents of data processed and exchanged among IB nodes must ultimately be stored. Blade servers and other high-density, low-profile computers often deployed in clusters are notoriously light on internal storage. This forces IB administrators to interface the IB fabric to a conventional Fibre Channel (FC) SAN using an IB-to-FC gateway. But native IB storage fabrics dedicated to a performance-demanding app are beginning to appear in corporate data centers.

No one

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expects IB storage to replace conventional FC and Ethernet technologies (at least into the foreseeable future), but as IB-clustered servers are used to solve corporate computing problems, IB storage deployments will inevitably grow. Storage managers should understand the benefits of IB and learn how the addition of IB storage will impact operations.

This was first published in April 2006

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