Vendors are readying products to support RDMA over TCP/IP, a fledgling networking technology wending its way through standards bodies promising faster data transfers with less processor power.
Remote direct memory addressing over IP lets hardware devices share data directly among their respective memory chips, easing CPUs processing burden. Specifically, information being passed does not require CPU processing. The process is similar to that of the Virtual Interface and InfiniBand technologies—which also use remote addressing. But this new wave of RDMA takes remote addressing over IP, which is cheaper and less complex, developers said.
"The practical reality of this situation is that we need to be planning for heterogeneous networking environments," said Karl Walker, chief technology officer in Hewlett-Packard Co.s Industry Standard Servers division. "The one given is that every data center in the universe has TCP/IP."
By early 2004, HP will include RDMA-over-IP technology in several models of its ProCurve network adapters, Walker said. ProCurve adapters are used in the Palo Alto, Calif., companys 10/100BaseT and Gigabit Ethernet network routers.
Products equipped with the technology will debut in the first half of next year from Adaptec Inc. Company officials said they plan to incorporate the fledgling RDMA in Adaptecs NAC (Network Accelerator Card), which connects IP storage to networks and servers. The company will also build it into its Storage Protocol Accelerator chip, which Adaptec uses in the NAC and sells to other companies as a development platform.
The products aim to help IT users decrease network latency and administration costs, according to Ram Jayam, vice president and general manager of Adaptecs storage networking group, in Milpitas, Calif.
In the second quarter of 2004, Intel Corp. will add the interconnect to all its IP storage products, said Ahmed Zamer, product line manager, in Santa Clara, Calif. They include the upcoming Pro/1000 T IP iSCSI Adapter, which is comparable to Adaptecs products.
Adaptec, HP and Intel are founding members of the RDMA over IP Consortium, along with Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., EMC Corp. and Broadcom Corp.
Cisco will use the technology for its future 10 Gigabit Ethernet products, said Mark Bakke, technical leader of Ciscos storage router unit, in San Jose, Calif. "We believe Ethernet is going to be a better choice. We view RDMA as the most important thing" on the road map, Bakke said.
Microsoft and EMC declined to comment specifically about their RDMA-over-IP plans, but a Microsoft spokesman did say the company would make a related announcement sometime next year. IBM officials have no firm plans for RDMA over IP, preferring to stick with the high-end InfiniBand technology, officials said.
With few real examples to test or review, users are taking a wait-and-see approach. Nate McQueen, a media systems architect at the University of Washingtons Computing and Communications department, in Seattle, said he believes InfiniBand has the edge. "The TCP/IP protocol stack wasnt designed to move data between servers, it was designed for long distances," McQueen said. "[And] its not clear that thered be big cost savings."
Before committing to any new protocol, there needs to be support from systems management software, such as IBMs Tivoli products, McQueen said.
Efforts to get the technology out of laboratories and into enterprises are also under way from the RDMA over IP Consortium, which last week began the standardization process by giving its RDMA over IP 1.0 specification to the Internet Engineering Task Forces Remote Direct Data Placement Working Group, HPs Walker said.