Voltaire router promises 'unified fabrics'

By Ann Silverthorn

—Addressing storage I/O bottlenecks that are popping up in high-performance computing (HPC) environments, Voltaire this week announced a storage router that will enable users to create "unified fabrics." The company says that the InfiniBand-based SR4G High Performance Storage Router can improve access to existing Fibre Channel storage by up to 200%, while eliminating the need for Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs). The company claims a throughput rate of 1,500MBps. Shipments of the router are expected in January.

Voltaire officials say the router will improve the performance of applications accessing Fibre Channel storage devices and simplify connectivity of InfiniBand fabrics to existing SANs to eliminate I/O bottlenecks, reduce data-center costs, and improve storage flexibility.

The resulting unified fabric would consist of the router connected to a Fibre Channel SAN via iSCSI Extensions for RDMA (ISER), an Ethernet network, and InfiniBand.

"We're using only one wire to connect servers to servers and servers to storage," says Asaf Somekh, vice president of strategic alliances at Voltaire. "There's also a cost savings because no HBAs are needed. It can eliminate Fibre Channel ports, and our host channel adapters [HCAs] operate at 20Gbps. The latest Fibre Channel is less than half of what InfiniBand already offers."

According to Somekh, the router will address cost, complexity, and performance issues. From a cost perspective, the current paradigm requires NICs/HBAs, parallel networks, and additional cables and management costs. Using the Voltaire router can result in one-half the capital cost and less management overhead, according to the company.

Regarding complexity, today's storage administrators often have to manage multiple network technologies. They also may require two to three times the number of switches, cables, and cards. Using Voltaire's unified fabric, Somekh says a single server connection can be used for management, and companies can continue to use their Fibre Channel and/or iSCSI management tools.

Finally, regarding performance, existing architectures are running into bandwidth bottlenecks—at least in HPC environments—and there's often no hardware-enforced prioritization, QoS, or congestion management. With InfiniBand, organizations can realize two to twenty times the bandwidth, 1/10th the latency, CPU offload through RDMA, and increased efficiency of existing storage resources, says Somekh.

Using iSER, the SR4G router can boost iSCSI performance while leveraging the protocol's existing management capabilities.

Voltaire uses an OEM and reseller business model, with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, SGI, and Sun among its existing OEMs. List price for the SR4G router is expected to be $33,000.

This article was originally published on November 01, 2007