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New life for InfiniBand

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Early IB adopters
Is IB hype still outpacing IB products? It's too early to say for sure. IB storage is relatively new and many products are still being evaluated by users. For example, Sandia National Laboratories made news in 2005 when it implemented a 4,500-node InfiniBand cluster for Department of Energy research, but it's only now evaluating IB storage devices. "A lot of the IB storage is either just hitting the market or in the beta-testing phase for the vendors," says Matt Leininger, principal member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories. He's particularly interested in leveraging IB storage to reduce the costs and complexities of FC storage. "At least having the option of getting rid of some of those [IB-to-FC] routers is certainly intriguing," he says.

Still, early IB storage adopters are generally pleased and encouraged with the results they're seeing. DNA Productions Inc. in Irving, TX, runs a 1,000-processor rendering farm that drives its computer animation business. DNA traditionally relied on NAS boxes for storage, but quick NAS obsolescence and network performance concerns drove the company to adopt a new storage infrastructure based on 42 Isilon IQ 1920 storage devices--today providing more than 80TB to hundreds of artists and animators.

"I have to get that render farm flying, and I need the render farm to hit that storage device as fast as it can," says Brian Chacon, part of the management

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team at DNA Productions, who reports throughputs up to 2.3Gb/sec between the render farm and storage system. Not only is the data rate appealing, but Chacon values the modularity and scalability found in Isilon's offering. Another plus: The system required little training.

Simplicity is also a notable benefit for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Traditionally an FC SAN user, the NRL is systematically moving its 100TB to 150TB of research data to IB storage on SGI and other platforms. "About half of that amount is now on InfiniBand storage using serial ATA drives," says Dr. Hank Dardy, chief scientist for advanced computing at the NRL's Center for Computational Science. Dardy sees IB as a better, faster and cheaper technology for storage and other networking tasks. It took approximately three weeks to integrate IB storage devices into the NRL environment--a relatively smooth process from Dardy's perspective. "It certainly wasn't out of the norm," he says. Other than a one-day training session at a vendor facility, the system required no advanced training.

This was first published in April 2006

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