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InfiniBand SAN hits the airwaves

Storage company offers InfiniBand SAN hoping to spark interest among broadcasters by offering a native InfiniBand storage system for less than $2 per gigabyte with designs on expanding into mainstream storage market.

Rorke Data Inc. is joining the small list of vendors to offer a native InfiniBand storage system.

Rorke, a subsidiary of Bell Microproducts, launched the Galaxy Aurora IB SAN appliance at the International Broadcasting Convention in The Netherlands. Rorke's Galaxy platform consists primarily of Fibre Channel RAID and NAS products for the film, broadcasting and video surveillance markets.

InfiniBand, a high-bandwidth low-latency connectivity protocol, is used often in high-performance computing (HPC), usually connected to servers. DataDirect Networks, LSI, and a few smaller vendors in the broadcast space offer native InfiniBand storage systems, but the protocol has not won widespread adoption in the storage space.

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Rorke CEO Joe Swanson said his company plans to eventually move beyond the broadcasting market with InfiniBand. "We think this can have far-reaching implications in storage, but we're starting out targeting the broadcast market, and we'll branch out from there," Swanson said.

The Galaxy Aurora IB ships in one configuration – a 4U chassis holding 22 TB of either 7,200 rpm or 15,000 rpm SAS drives. Swanson said larger systems are on the roadmap, but customers can cluster systems behind an InfiniBand switch if they want to scale now.

The system uses Mellanox InfiniBand host channel adapters (HCA) and offers customers either what Swanson calls "bare-bones" switches from Flextronics or switches with more advanced management capabilities from QLogic. Swanson said the starting price is in the mid-$30,000 range, or less than $2 per gigabyte.

The Galaxy Aurora IB uses 20 Gbps double data rate (DDR) InfiniBand. Swanson said 40 Gbps quad data rate (QDR) InfiniBand is planned for future releases. The roadmap also includes support for SATA drives with MAID and RAID 10 systems for high transaction applications, such as Oracle and SQL databases.

The InfiniBand system's appeal to broadcasters will come from requiring fewer switches and connection devices than Fibre Channel, while providing faster performance as the industry moves from 2K to larger 4K film, Swanson said. At less than $2 a gigabyte, he said Rorke's system has a more appealing price tag than InfiniBand competitors.

Performance and price are really the only things that matter in the broadcasting market, said analyst Joe Martins, Data Mobility Group. The people who will use the systems don't care if the plumbing is InfiniBand, Fibre Channel or Ethernet, as long as it works, he added.

"I would have to talk to more folks in the video production industry to see if they care if InfiniBand is part of the mix," Martins said. "I haven't heard anyone say it is. They'll take whatever is the absolute fastest way to get information across."

Although Swanson claims Rorke has shipped more than 7,000 Galaxy systems since 1999, Martins said Rorke has kept mostly under the radar in the broadcasting field.

"They're a wild card," he said. "All the claims they make are interesting. I would put Rorke on the lower end of the video production market with Isilon and the HP ExDS9100, from a performance standpoint. DataDirect is the 900-pound gorilla in that market, they're on the ultra high end. I don't know if the cutting edge shops would want to use something like [the Galaxy Aurora IB], but maybe there are plenty of others who would."

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