InfiniBand group plans Linux standard

If all goes well, a standard Linux version of InfiniBand could be available as early as this year, boosting claims that the technology is the preferred connection medium for computer clusters.

A new consortium called the Open InfiniBand Alliance (www.openib.org), which so far includes commercial companies and two national laboratories, will develop standard drivers first for high-end technical computing applications and later for commercial database clusters.

"Linux is now the de facto standard for clustering," said Matt Leininger, a computational scientist at Sandia National Laboratories. "We are building large computer clusters now and want to be able to use a lot of different [computing platforms and devices] with InfiniBand."

Sandia and Lawrence Livermore are the two national laboratory members of OpenIB. Commercial companies include Dell Inc., Engenio Information Technologies Inc. (formerly LSI Logic Storage Systems Inc.), IBM Corp., InfiniCon Systems, Intel Corp., Mellanox Technologies Inc., Network Appliance Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Topspin Communications Inc., Veritas Software Corp. and Voltaire Inc.

InfiniBand has been available since 2000 and offers an open-source, low-latency alternative to better-known technologies such as Ethernet and various specialty solutions for connecting clusters. It has a potential transmission speed of 30 gigabits/sec and can handle multiple data channels at once.

There are several Linux implementations of InfiniBand already, but they are tied to particular vendors' platforms. Those proprietary software stacks, which don't allow users to easily mix and match products such as computer and storage systems, are an impediment to the growth of InfiniBand, Leininger said.

OpenIB members expect to announce a schedule for product delivery by the end of September. Drivers for high-end computing, which is where the bulk of InfiniBand use is now, will be available first, with the commercial database software probably coming some 18 months later.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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