Infiniband, a new high-speed interconnect technology designed to boost bandwidth inside data centers, reached a significant milestone last week when supporters demonstrated it running enterprise-class database applications for the first time.
But questions remain as to whether InfiniBand, set to debut this winter and backed by several high-tech heavyweights, offers significant advantages over established architectures such as Ethernet and Fibre Channel.
The technologys channel-based, switched-fabric architecture provides a high-speed chassis-to-chassis link between servers and storage devices. However, its advantage could disappear when the next generations of existing interconnects, such as 10 Gigabit Ethernet (due in late 2003), start appearing.
While more than 200 companies make up the InfiniBand Trade Association, its clout comes from its seven founders: Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.
At a meeting in Orlando, Fla., last week, the association showed servers running IBMs DB2 Universal Database 7.2 and Linux kernel 2.4.
Proponents said the adoption of InfiniBand, which is only months away from its formal introduction in server and storage hardware, will be in new or expanding infrastructures. But InfiniBands value to customers is questionable, said Bert McComas, an analyst at InQuest Market Research, in Higley, Ariz. "The technology itself is spectacular, but do we need it?" McComas asked. "Is the Internet collapsing for lack of this technology? No."
David Krane, a spokesman for Internet search engine Google Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., said the company currently has no interest in InfiniBand. "Its not something were focused on ... in any way," Krane said.
InfiniBands greatest potential involves its use in clustering multiple systems, but thats not something data centers will be doing for at least five to 10 years, McComas said.
If thats true, then data center managers may judge InfiniBand based solely on price and performance, where McComas said he sees little advantage.
Nevertheless, he said, "There is no doubt in my mind that it will take hold, even if it holds no real advantage over Ethernet and Fibre Channel."