By Ann Silverthorn
—In yet another sign that InfiniBand may be making its way into the storage space, QLogic this week announced that it will acquire PathScale, a start-up founded in 2001, for approximately $109 million in cash. PathScale develops InfiniBand-based "system area network" adapters that are targeted at high-performance computing (HPC) environments. PathScale's flagship product, the InfiniPath HTX InfiniBand host channel adapter (HCA), is designed for applications that require high-speed connectivity and low latency.
InfiniBand is a bidirectional serial I/O interconnect with a 2.5Gbps single data rate (SDR) in each direction per connection. It also supports double-data rate (DDR) and quad-data rate (QDR) for 5Gbps and 10Gbps transfer rates. Aggregating links (4X, 12X) increases throughput. For example, a quad-rate 12X link has a transfer rate of 120Gbps. InfiniBand can run across copper or fiber-optic cabling. (For more information, visit the InfiniBand Trade Association at www.infinibandta.org)
Today, InfiniBand is used primarily in server clusters ranging from two to thousands of nodes. In addition to connecting servers, InfiniBand can also be used to connect the compute, communications, and storage fabrics in the data center. The technology also enables block- or file-based I/O.
QLogic's CEO and president, H.K. Desai, said during a conference call, "InfiniBand implementations are found mainly in HPC environments where users have chosen to replace more-expensive monolithic servers with large clusters of inexpensive rack-mount servers running Linux and connected with InfiniBand system area network fabrics."
Desai made it clear that QLogic's InfiniBand focus is on servers, not storage—at least for now. "Storage already has Fibre Channel technology, which is vastly deployed in data centers, and iSCSI for network storage in SMBs [small to medium-sized businesses]," says Desai. "We don't expect InfiniBand to penetrate the storage interface, at least in the near term."
"Similar to our recent acquisition of Troika Networks, the acquisition of PathScale adds new technology to QLogic's expanding portfolio of solutions," says Desai. "It provides QLogic entry into the quickly expanding system area network fabric market."
Based on the one million InfiniBand ports sold by the end of 2005, QLogic estimates that the InfiniBand market will reach $400 million by 2009.
PathScale's InfiniPath HTX InfiniBand adapters are designed as low-latency interconnects for Linux clusters. InfiniPath HTX offers the following features:
- 1.29-microseconds message passing interface (MPI) latency;
- 954MBps peak unidirectional bandwidth;
- 583MBps TCP/IP throughput with 6.7-microsecond latency; and
- 11.3 million messages per second (eight CPU cores per adapter).
InfiniPath is interoperable with InfiniBand switches and host channel adapters (HCAs) from Cisco, Mellanox, SilverStorm Technologies (formerly Infinicon), and Voltaire. Voltaire offers PathScale's InfiniPath adapters with its switches.
The PathScale acquisition is expected to close in April.