Mellanox pushing hard on data center Infiniband

By MATT VINCENT, Senior Editor -- Mellanox Technologies (NASDAQ:MLNX) has rolled out its 2nd generation of InfiniBand switches--as well as a proprietary cabling package--to support more users in the data center, networking and management, and server and storage channels.

By MATT VINCENT, Senior Editor -- Mellanox Technologies (Yokneam, Israel - NASDAQ:MLNX) has rolled out its second generation of InfiniBand switches and the latest version of its associated FabricIT chassis management application -- as well as a proprietary cabling package -- to support a wider range of users, specifically in the data center, networking and management, "Next Gen" network, and servers and storage channels.

This week's tandem product introductions fullfil a plan revealed in mid-2009, when the company said that it would release a family of switches, as well as a cabling platform, which was also announced this week. The company now offers IS5000 20 and 40 Gb/s switches ranging from 36 up to 648 ports.

InfiniBand offers more bandwidth and better performance than other networking protocols, in particular, because of its very low latency. "Our switch's latency is 100 nanoseconds," laughs John Monson, vice president of marketing for Mellanox. "Our nearest competitors are 125 to 180 nanoseconds."

According to Monson, while this doesn't sound like much of a difference...it adds up. "Each time they have these communications, they have a delay," he notes. "If you think about that many translations through the switch, it all multiplies."

Applications that require such high performance and low latency include simulations in industry and government, says Monson. (He further revealed that one customer "is moving from 2D fluid dynamics to 3D, and can only do so the new generation of [Mellanox] equipment.")

In conjunction new multi-core processors from Intel and AMD, the overall result in the data center is a chance for significantly higher efficiency, which may allow for improved performance with reduced cost of ownership.

Data center managers take note: "Operating expenses drop because you require fewer servers to do the same job, so the infrastructure shrinks," Monson says. "While a gigabit Ethernet network might be 50 percent efficient, an InfiniBand network could offer 90 to 95 percent efficiency."

Each port of the new Mellanox switches can offer 40Gbps, meaning that a 648-port switch ultimately pans out into throughput of 51.8Tbps -- more than half a Petabyte. Mellanox contends that this scenario provides 4x the bandwidth at the same price point as 10GbE, meaning users can cut the number of servers in half due to the efficiency and utilization of the resource.

Bottom line, while other vendors supply InfiniBand hardware, Mellanox claims its platform offers 20 to 30 percent less latency as a result of the company having realized its fourth generation of silicon.

"Though InfiniBand has been criticized for requiring special cabling, that's going to be required no matter which networking technology is used," points out Monson. "Any way you slice it, when you go to the next generation of capabilities, you are likely going to need to change your ecosystem relative to cable."

"The Mellanox announcements offer more of an end-to-end approach that makes the networks easier to acquire for users," opines Jie Wu, research director of technical computing for IDC analyst firm, and Mellanox champion. "Users only need to deal with one vendor because the company has a wide range of product offerings, including the cabling."

"In addition," adds Wu, "Due to its improved silicon and technology as well as its fabric management software and cable certification and testing procedures, users are likely to see better performance than with competing products."

The new products are now available, though pricing information is not, as of yet.

(My takeaway from that little detail is this: Data center managers, make your bids. And if you do get a line in on pricing info, feel free to contact me and/or Chief Editor Patrick McLaughlin for a little intelligence sharing. Because price is everything in this economy, no?)

-- Matt Vincent, Senior Editor, CIM and ICW (InterconnectionWorld.com)

Email: mattv@pennwell.com; patrick@pennwell.com

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