The demands of the Internet and distributed computing are challenging the scalability, reliability, availability, and performance of servers. To meet this demand a balanced system architecture with equally good performance in the memory, processor, and input/output (I/O) subsystems is required.
To address this important issue, seven of the computing industry’s leaders, Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems have joined together to form an independent industry body called the InfiniBand Trade Association.
The association has developed a new common I/O specification to deliver a channel based, switched fabric technology that connects servers with remote storage and networking devices, and other servers. It can also be used inside servers for inter-processor communication.
‘InfiniBand is going to be a pervasive computer architecture that will likely replace the current PCI and PCI-X buses over the next several years,’ said Gordon Haff, research director for High-end Architectures at Aberdeen Group.
To help accelerate industry development of interoperable InfiniBand products, Intel plans to open an InfiniBand interoperability lab by mid-year.
‘Interoperability is a critical element to the successful launch of the InfiniBand architecture,’ said Jim Pappas, director of initiative marketing for Intel’s Enterprise Platform Group. ‘In delivering the first InfiniBand fabric, Intel and other InfiniBand leaders are tackling the task of InfiniBand interoperability. The lab will expand this effort to all InfiniBand developers interested in interoperating with Intel’s InfiniBand products.’
Additionally, Intel plans to begin shipping InfiniBand product development kits to InfiniBand developers within a few weeks. The kits include Intel’s InfiniBand host channel adapters and the requisite software required to initiate development of InfiniBand products.
For its part, Agilent Technologies and RedSwitch recently unveiled the first InfiniBand compatible switch product that has resulted from a design collaboration between the two companies.
The eight-port InfiniBand switch, scheduled for sample availability from both companies in the third quarter of 2001, is designed for a wide range of applications including storage and data networks, servers and workstations, server clustering, input/output adapters, and high-speed backplanes.
The switch supports both 2.5 Gb/s (1x) or 10 Gb/s (4x) InfiniBand link speeds, on each of the eight ports, for a maximum aggregate bandwidth of 160 Gb/s (bi-directional).
Another company active in the InfiniBand business is VIEO. It recently announced the availability of its ‘Fabric Manager’, a suite of core services, management and agent modules that fully conform to the InfiniBand Architecture specification, which are required for devices to be InfiniBand Architecture-enabled.
On the chip front, the industry’s first power management solution based on the new high-speed InfiniBand 1.0 specification has also recently debuted from Texas Instruments.
TI’s new InfiniBand power management evaluation module (EVM) extends the utility of TI’s hot swap and power controllers. The complete power solution is compatible with the InfiniBand 1.0 specification.
As the InfiniBand specification evolves, system developers will be able to migrate their designs to later versions of the EVM and power devices. Along with the EVM, TI offers a user’s guide, board layout files, and applications note SLVA093, which help simplify the implementation of the power subsystem and reduce development time.
In addition to offering a full power solution for InfiniBand architecture, TI is also developing a high-speed serializer-deserializer to support the specification.
With all this activity, it’s not surprising that analysts are excited about the future of the new specification. ‘We recently predicted that the InfiniBand architecture will enjoy an 80 percent InfiniBand-capable entry serve adoption rate by 2004,’ concludes Vernon Turner, vice president of Worldwide Commercial Systems and Servers at IDC.