Voltaire ups ante in InfiniBand/Ethernet duel

Networking hardware vendor Voltaire will introduce a set of switches, based on the next-generation InfiniBand standard, that should beat the inter-switch throughput offered by the latest versions of Ethernet, the company announced Monday.

While most Ethernet backbones use 10-Gigabit Ethernet, and some large organizations and carriers 100-Gigabit Ethernet backbone gear -- the new InfiniBand standard, called FDR (Fourteen Data Rate) InfiniBand, should provide the basis for 168 Gb/s (gigabits per second) switch-to-switch throughput, said Asaf Somekh, Voltaire's vice president of marketing. Voltaire plans to offer switches that use FDR in the second half of 2011.

In June, the InfiniBand Trade Association (IBTA) , introducing FDR as a higher-throughput replacement for its current standard, QDR (Quad Data Rate).

QDR can provide 40G bps (bits per second) throughput to a server, or 32Gb/s of actual payload. FDR can provide 56Gb/s of payload, Somekh said. Somekh would not reveal what the total throughput will be, though IBTA asserts that FDR's new rate of encoding can deliver 64 bits of information using only 2 bits of overhead, which is superior to the QDR encoding that delivers 8 bits using 2 bits of overhead. This suggests that total throughput, including overhead, might be around 57.75 Gb/s.

Somekh did not give any details on Voltaire's plans for FDR server adapters, but he did say the company plans to introduce a set of switches that would have three 56 Gb/s channels, for an aggregate throughput of 168 Gb/s, in the second half of next year.

InfiniBand is an interconnect technology widely used in the high-performance computing community (HPC). of the Top 500 most powerful supercomputers, 213 systems in the Top 500 use InfiniBand. Voltaire's InfiniBand interconnects are used in 121 of the systems on the list.