What Is Going to Happen With Infiniband?

Posted on November 15, 2011 By Henry Newman

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The Supercomputing 2011 show is well under way, and I have been thinking about Infiniband. With Mellanox buying Voltaire a while back, we are now down to two vendors in the Infiniband market space--Mellanox and QLogic. Are any other markets expanding with only two suppliers? Of course, you might answer there are only two suppliers of CPUs, but that does not include ARM and other cell phone processors as well as PowerPC. Infiniband is a needed technology for certain applications that require low-latency, high-performance communication. The current 40 Gbit/sec QDR Infiniband has been available for a number of years, and the industry is rumored to be moving to FDR at 56 Gbit/sec but far more efficient encode, which allows the realization of higher performance. Infiniband also supports RDMA (remote direct memory access), which significantly reduces latency for applications and libraries that can take advantage of this feature. The questions I have are:

  1. Is the HPC market including traditional HPC, and is the financial trading community big enough to support the R&D needed for a technology? The HPC market is small but growing, and almost all of the large clusters use Infiniband.
  2. Do two vendors provide enough competition in the market? Not too many years ago there were four vendors.

One other interesting point that I recently realized but had the wrong timing as to when it would happen: 10 Gb Ethernet ports are finally having major price drops. I thought this would happen in 2008 or 2009, but given the economic downturn, the volume just did not materialize.

Finally, we are going to see 10 Gb Ethernet become common on higher end motherboards. As the price drops for this technology, will that cause Infiniband to become the next HiPPI technology? Infiniband has a much bigger market than HiPPI did but there are many parallels. Forgive the bad pun.


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