Cisco pushes InfiniBand into datacentres

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Cisco pushes InfiniBand into datacentres

Networking giant Cisco is providing products and tools to mix InfiniBand and
Ethernet gear in the datacentre.

Cisco this week expanded its datacentre product portfolio to handle InfiniBand as well as Ethernet connectivity and introduced new operating system software to facilitate grid computing.

The vendor also announced new SFS 7000D Series InfiniBand Series DDR switches designed to support fast server interconnections in high performance computing and server clustering environments, plus support for these switches in its CiscoWorks management tools.

Cisco was previously selling InfiniBand-only switching fabric products, said director of product marketing Shawn Hansen, following its $US250m buyout of Topspin Communications last year. However, the vendor said it had found customers always had Ethernet in the datacentre already, and that the two technologies would be much more valuable as an integrated solution. “Network administrators can now use InfiniBand without having to worry about a lack of manageability,” said Hansen.

InfiniBand has been associated with better performance and greater reliability than Ethernet, but its higher cost has deterred many IT managers from deploying it in datacentres and server farms.

Hansen said that one customer in the UK, Morgan Chase, had seen a seven-fold performance increase when its servers were interconnected using InfiniBand rather than 100Mbit/s Ethernet.

“We’re seeing a new trend for high performance applications which are latency or bandwidth sensitive, or have a lot of CPU requirements,” said Hansen. “In the finance industry, even a couple of milliseconds of latency in trading applications can translate into millions of dollars of transactions.”

Hansen conceded that InfiniBand equipment is more expensive to purchase, but argued that it is more cost-effective on a price-performance basis. “The average price for equivalent throughput is around $US1,000 per board and that is approaching the cost of gigabit Ethernet,” he added.
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