By Raul Del Fabbro, Storage Division Manager at Drive Control Corporation
InfiniBand is a powerful architecture designed to offer connectivity for a high-speed and reliable Internet infrastructure. While the technology was developed as early as 2000, the protocol today is gaining traction and supported by all the major OEM server vendors as a means to create the next generation Input / Output (I/O) interconnect standard in Information Technology (IT) infrastructure topologies.
Why? The popularity of the Internet and the requirements for 24/7 uptime of enterprise computing is demanding higher system performance and reliability requirements to levels that today’s Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) architectures via Ethernet and Fibre Channel can no longer reliably support.
Furthermore, the trend in the industry is to move storage out of the server environment to isolated storage networks and to distribute data across fault tolerant systems. These demands go beyond a simple requirement for more bandwidth, and PCI based systems have reached the limits of its architecture capabilities.
Enter InfiniBand. InfiniBand is a switch-based, serial I/O interconnect architecture operating at a base speed of 2.5 Gigabits per second (Gb/s) or 10 Gigabits per second (Gb/s) and provides a cohesive interconnect for a wide range of systems and devices via point to point and multi-casting data transfer.
Building on the experience of developing Ethernet Local Area Networks (LAN), Fibre Channel Storage Area Networks, and numerous Wide Area Network (WAN) interconnects, InfiniBand can carry multiple channels of data at the same time in a multiplexing signal.
Importantly, it offers Quality of Service (QoS), reliability, availability and serviceability, which has been designed into the InfiniBand architecture from the beginning as opposed to technologies such as Ethernet and Fibre channel. Capabilities such as high throughput, low latency, and failover capabilities are critical to its ability to serve as the common I/O infrastructure for the next generation of compute server and storage systems.
With InfiniBand, service providers are able to provide highly reliable services with the ability to dramatically scale groups of servers in a short period of time to accommodate the explosive growth of the bandwidth requirements. A fundamental aspect of the InfiniBand architecture is the concept of “Bandwidth Out of the Box”. InfiniBand has the ability to take bandwidth, which has historically been trapped inside the server, and extend this across the network nodes in the network topology and deliver the data precisely where it is needed.
InfiniBand also natively supports Remote Dynamic Memory Access (RDMA), the ability to move data between memory regions on two remote systems in a manner that offloads the processor and operating system based on its priority.
In closing, the rapid adoption of Infiniband continues and its being welcomed as more businesses and consumers utilise the Internet more often and at higher bandwidth speeds. InfiniBand and Ethernet based storage solutions are available which provide a significantly higher performance at a lower price. This translates into real world customer advantages, such as better server utilisation, increased application performance and reduced total cost of ownership.