InfiniBand makes gradual comeback into storage

Two vendors unveiled products based on the InfiniBand high-speed networking specification last week, marking a revival of sorts for a technology once seen as a rival to Fibre Channel before faltering.

Isilon Systems Inc. in Seattle unwrapped a new network-attached storage cluster and appliance to accelerate throughput that uses InfiniBand as a backbone to scale its system up to 250TB of capacity under a single file system.

The Isilon IQ 6000i system is built on rack-mountable 6TB nodes, which are each 2U high (1U = 1.75 in.). The IQ Accelerator appliance can increase cluster throughput to 6GB/sec.

Parag Mallick, director of clinical proteomics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, is using 10 Isilon IQ 6000i systems as back-end storage for three mass spectrometer machines that analyze blood proteins for a cancer research project. The spectrometers generate about 1TB of data per day.

"We had a fairly massive scalability problem. So the idea of taking a device off-line [to add storage capacity] was unthinkable," Mallick said.

The scientists working on the project also need massive bandwidth because they run analytical programs against the hundreds of terabytes of data collected over several months. "I'm pretty sure [the system] can saturate it," Mallick said.