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InfiniCon Switches Boost Performance

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A day after the new supercomputer rankings were released,
a leading InfiniBand gear maker unveiled a new switch
platform for boosting the performance of large computing clusters and grids.

InfiniCon Systems Tuesday unveiled new InfinIO 9000 Series switches for
large-scale computing, as well as the InfinIO 5000 Series, which supports
bisectional clustering bandwidth from up to 12 InfiniBand-attached servers
to SAN and WAN/LAN networks — at the same time.

InfiniBand is an increasingly popular interconnect technology that pipes
data between processors and I/O devices at 30 gigabits
per second
. The technology has been replacing the PCI bus in high-end
servers and PCs.

Companies like InfiniCon and rivals Topspin and Voltaire have been lining up
partners and customers at a prodigious rate, fearing being left in the dust
by competition. The competition has prompted vendors to create
InfiniBand switches that handle large-scale computing.

Charles Foley, executive vice president of InfiniCon, said the industry is
moving toward large-scale switching systems, a trend that has evolved
dramatically from as recently as two years ago when 16-, 32- and 64-node
clusters was common.

“The average cluster size is far bigger; it used to be that if you had a
cluster of 256, it was an architectural engineering feat that was cause for a
big celebration,” Foley told “Now a cluster of 2,000
nodes is common because of the success of commodity 64-bit processors and
high-speed interconnects.”

Foley said that another key driver for large-scale clusters is the
convergence of storage and the clusters, which used to be considered
independent of one another. As the need for data storage increases to the
tens of terabytes, Foley said InfiniBand will become increasingly necessary
to help clustering and grid computing.

Accordingly, InfiniCon’s new 9000 Series switches employ a combination of
InfiniBand with Fibre Channel and Ethernet to scale
out processing for large clustering applications. Users can run the 9100
Model with 144-port or the 9200 Model with 288-port capacities, with the
9200 delivering 5.76 terabits of bidirectional throughput.

Clusters now have to support hundreds of thousands of users, whereas a couple
of years ago, a massive cluster consisted of three or four professors posing
hypothetical questions to it, Foley explained. To connect the servers to
Fibre Channel SANs, NAS appliances and networks, 9000 systems can be
configured with virtual I/O blades, which also contain InfiniBand ports.

“InfiniBand is a wonderfully convergent vehicle for scale-out computing,
because it handles massive bandwidth, low latency and multiple protocols
simultaneously at wire speed,” Foley said.

Yankee Group Senior Analyst Jamie Gruener applauded the products in a

“Systems such as the InfinIO 9000 will be cornerstones in the broad industry
move to fabric/grid/cluster computing,” he said. “The performance and
scalability make commodity ‘scale out’ processing viable, and the
integration of Fibre Channel and Ethernet allow seamless integration into
the existing environment.”

The InfinIO 9000 Series will be available in Q3 2004.

While large-scale clustering is part of InfiniCon’s repertoire, the King of
Prussia, Pa.-based company also dabbles in the lowest end of the computing
pool with the InfinIO 5000. The company said it devised the 5000 Series to satisfy
the growing need for server clusters that support smaller, high-performance
computing applications and database applications, such as Oracle Database

In its base configuration, the switch is geared for blade server
deployments and lets customers build fully managed
12-node, 10Gbps clusters. The 5000 Series starts at $9,995 and
will be available this summer.

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