Electronic Design

Mellanox Pushes The Limit With InfiniBand

Mellanox did not have any new products that we have not already covered (“InfiniBand Busting Bandwidth,” ED Online 11556), but they did have a lot to say. While Mellanox talked about forthcoming products in general, the major part of our discussion was about the current crop of products. InfiniBand’s DDR mode was a big thing in 2005. The reason they are not pushing any harder on the new product front is that the rest of the world has yet to catch up.

Mellanox’s current crop of chips rest upon PCI Express. This turns out to be a good match because the maximum throughput of PCI Express and Mellanox’s InfiniHost III Ex are about the same. Doubling the performance, yet again, of the InfiniHost line would do no good since the rest of the system could not keep up. It is somewhat like adding Gigabit Ethernet to a Pentium II system. The Pentium II could simply not deliver data fast enough even if it dedicated 100% of its efforts to the network.

Given InfiniBand’s impressive performance and low overhead, it was not surprising to talk to Mellanox a bit about its success in supercomputers. Low latency and the fastest throughput around make it ideal for this environment. Of course, today’s PCs incorporate technologies of yesteryear’s supercomputers, so don’t be surprised if InfiniBand shows up in some interesting spots.

What will be more interesting this year will be InfiniBand’s penetration into the commercial space, especially the server market. Like other fabric technologies, InfiniBand can tunnel protocols like TCP/IP so a host only needs an InfiniBand link to handle this type of traffic. Given the low power requirements of Mellanox’s chips, their use in low-power blades is an ideal match.

The tough nut to crack will be acceptance by those that swear exclusively by Ethernet, not the most efficient protocol. But that is another story.

Read more: Micro Memory’s CoSine Was A Great Sign

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