Fibre Channel cluster demo proves VIAbility
Last month, a group of vendors demonstrated for the first time a working cluster based on the Virtual Interface (VI) Architecture in a Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN). VI is a specification that defines an interface for low latency, high-bandwidth communication between servers and storage devices within a cluster. Implemented in software, it significantly reduces latencies in message-passing operations. Result: low-cost clustering for Intel-based servers.
Participating in the demo were Clariion, Dell, IBM, Intel, Giganet, and QLogic. Dell supplied 16 Windows NT-based four-way Pentium II Xeon servers; Clariion supplied 3TB of Fibre Channel RAID subsystems (including Fibre Channel drives); IBM provided a VI-compliant version of its DB2 database storing two billion records in a data warehouse application; GigaNet supplied its cLAN (Cluster LAN) VI interconnects for processor-to-processor communications; and QLogic supplied PCI Fibre Channel host adapters. Visual Insights provided data visualization software for examining trends and patterns in DB2 query results.
The demonstration took place at last month`s Comdex Enterprise West show and at Intel`s Developers Conference and was orchestrated by Intel, which developed the VI spec--with Compaq and Microsoft--for use with its standard high-volume (SHV) servers. The spec was released last December.
"This is the first time VIA was demonstrated in a 16-node working cluster environment," claims Rick Franz, director of corporate marketing at QLogic, in Costa Mesa, CA.
Although the demo was based on a Fibre Channel SAN and a standard Ethernet LAN, the VI Architecture is protocol independent.
According to International Data Corp., a market research firm in Framingham, MA, clusters are expected to represent 10% of the Intel-based server market this year, and about 25% by the end of next year.