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Interest in InfiniBand wanes, but could come around soon

Hype over InfiniBand appears to be fizzling but despite the low demand, there's still a need for the technology standard.

More than one year after the first version of the InfiniBand specification was released it seems the once-hyped interconnect technology has lost some steam.

Some vendors and analysts say a lack of market demand and the invisibility of a marketing effort behind the technology are hurting InfiniBand's move toward data center deployments.

Richard Napolitano, president and CEO of Pirus Networks Inc., said his company will back InfiniBand when the specification when it is completed, but Pirus' customers are not clamoring for InfiniBand-based products.

"No one has really asked us for it," Napolitano said at the RBC Capital Markets System Area Networks Conference in New York last week.

InfiniBand is architecture and specification for boosting data flow between processors and I/O devices and it is expected to replace the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) shared-bus approach used in most computers and servers, according to the online technical dictionary

Mike Karp, senior analyst, Enterprise Management Associates analyst Mike Karp agrees that there is a lack of market demand, but there is still a need for InfiniBand.

"InfiniBand is conceptually a great idea," said Karp. "It offers hope for enhancing the flow of data between storage systems and servers. There is a fundamental need for higher input to the server."

"The InfiniBand Trade Association has been quiet almost to the point of incompetence," Karp said. "The lack of market positioning [for InfiniBand] is almost enough to make the rest of us lose interest."

Karp questioned the commitment of some of the IFTA's members toward making InfiniBand a reality in the industry.

"There's a lot of money being put into InfiniBand, but it's not even a blip on the radar yet," he said.

InfiniBand Trade Association (IFTA) spokespeople Allyson Klein, industry marketing manager of Intel Corp.'s Advanced Components Division, and Brian Borack, senior product marketing manager and InfiniTEAM Solution Alliance Manager, for Lane15 Software Inc., said that InfiniBand products including links, connectors and components are already available in the market.

"Because InfiniBand fabrics require an entire ecosystem to be deployed in data centers, multiple products are required before we see data center deployments," said Klein.

Initial testing of InfiniBand fabrics in data centers is underway now with volume fabric rollout expected at the end of this year.

The IFTA admits there are compatibility issues between versions 1.0 and 1.0.A of the specification, but they do not expect them to impede deployment of InfiniBand fabrics to the market.

The IFTA said as with all industry standard technologies, vendors should develop to the latest version of the InfiniBand architecture specifications.

The InfiniBand specifications were complete in October 2000 with the first major overhaul, a version 1.0.a, released in June of 2001.

Klein and Borack said the industry is expecting server clustering to be the central focus of initial InfiniBand solution rollout, but while integrated InfiniBand storage interconnects are expected, they are anticipated later than InfiniBand architecture enabled server solutions.

According to the IFTA, the majority of server vendors have InfiniBand architecture on their roadmaps with public product announcements made by Dell, Fujitsu and IBM to date.

"The slowdown in the economy has slowed technology deployment, lowering server sales and impacting the speed of InfiniBand architecture rollout," said Klein.

However, the IBTA points to recent research from IDC that predicts 50% of servers shipped by 2005 will be InfiniBand architecture capable.


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