Electronic Design

Working With InfiniBand

Yesterday, I got Red Hat Linux to work on a dual monitor system, and the job was much easier using a single ATI RADEON video adapter. There are fewer things to contend with. Putting InfiniBand on the backplane also makes a system designer's task much simpler.

Mellonax Technologies takes just that approach in its Nitro Server Blade reference design. The system is only a box with the familiar processor blades that plug into InfiniBand ports instead of CompactPCI slots. Of course, the design shows Mellonax's InfiniBand host and switch chips--its bread and butter. More importantly, though, it illustrates how the conventional backplane can be bypassed, simplifying the overall system.

Using a high-speed switch fabric on the backplane makes a lot of sense, especially for high-reliability embedded systems. InfiniBand provides scalable, redundant connections without coming up with new standards. It also eliminates peripheral interfaces because InfiniBand is designed to connect devices together. The backplane simply becomes part of an overall InfiniBand switch fabric with disks sitting off one connection, and processors off another. This global interconnect has not-so-obvious advantages, such as improved management and maintenance. It still has competitors like Ethernet, but InfiniBand looks like a leader.

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