Software Suites Direct InfiniBand Connections

July 23, 2001
Two new companies provide critical InfiniBand network management software required for configuration, management, and monitoring.

The InfiniBand switch fabric doesn't work without management software. Unlike Ethernet, where an operational network can be assembled by simply plugging nodes into hubs or switches, InfiniBand requires setup and active monitoring. Fortunately, this critical management software is on hand, supplied by two vendors: Lane15 Software and Vieo.

InfiniBand isn't a simple switch fabric. Instead, it was designed to support a wide range of subsystem, intersystem, and network configurations. It incorporates channelized I/O and both network switching and routing. To handle that level of complexity, the InfiniBand Trade Association (IBTA) has created an InfiniBand Architecture (IBA) standard that supports the switch-fabric environment.

Through Management Agents incorporated into every InfiniBand network node—Host Channel Adapters, Target Channel Adapters, and switch/router nodes—the IBA manages the switch fabric. From board-level details through subnet management, the node agents address a range of information and settings. The InfiniBand management software, which initializes, sets up, and monitors the active fabric nodes, supports the agents. This software runs on host computers and some subsystems.

Two companies dominate the InfiniBand management space: Lane15 Software and Vieo. Both deploy IBA management software. Although some larger InfiniBand vendors are implementing this software on their own, most are licensing it from these two vendors. Many designers are learning that creating InfiniBand management software isn't easy. Buying is proving better than building.

The initial releases of InfiniBand management software from Lane15 and Vieo target fabric management. They support the basic configuration necessary to get a network up and running. Future releases will offer ad-vanced management features.

One problem addressed by these releases is interoperability management, which means helping to integrate diverse components, subsystems, and systems. Acting as a foundation, these stable initial releases provide a critical base for InfiniBand expansion.

  • 2.5-Gbit/s line signaling rate
  • 1, 4, 12 lines per link
  • 500-Mbyte/s, 2-Gbyte/s, 6-Gbyte/s bidirectional raw data bandwidth
  • Up to 2-Gbyte message sizes
  • 16 virtual lanes
  • provides TDMA scheduling on single link
  • up to 15 data lanes (0-14)
  • lane 15 reserved for management
  • Switch fabric—end, switches, and router nodes
  • Channel-oriented I/O host
  • Implements service levels for QoS
  • Transport services
  • raw, reliable, and unreliable datagram
  • reliable and unreliable connection
  • unreliable multicast
    Subnet Management
  • Uses Subnet Management Interface (SMI)
  • Subnet management agent (SMA) required on every node
  • Master subnet manager (SM) required per network. Backups are optional
  • SM configures each channel adapter using subnet management packets (SMPs)
  • General Services
  • Uses General Services Interface (GSI)
  • General services agent (GSA) on a node can provide one or more services
  • General services manager (GSM) can handle the following services:
  • Subnet administration
  • Communication management
  • Performance management
  • Device management
  • Baseboard management
  • SNMP Tunneling
  • Vendor-specific management
  • Queue pairs (QP)
  • QP 0 and 1 reserved for management
  • buffers mapped into virtual memory
  • Data transport—uses virtual lanes 0-14
  • Management Datagrams (MAD)
  • uses virtual lane 15
  • SMI uses QP 0, GSI uses QP 1
  • redirected and nonredirected MADs
  • used exclusively for management data sent between agents and managers
  • About the Author

    William G. Wong | Senior Content Director - Electronic Design and Microwaves & RF

    I am Editor of Electronic Design focusing on embedded, software, and systems. As Senior Content Director, I also manage Microwaves & RF and I work with a great team of editors to provide engineers, programmers, developers and technical managers with interesting and useful articles and videos on a regular basis. Check out our free newsletters to see the latest content.

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    I earned a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Masters in Computer Science from Rutgers University. I still do a bit of programming using everything from C and C++ to Rust and Ada/SPARK. I do a bit of PHP programming for Drupal websites. I have posted a few Drupal modules.  

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