InfiniBand - History


InfiniBand originated from the 1999 merger of two competing designs:

  1. Future I/O, developed by Compaq, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard
  2. Next Generation I/O (ngio), developed by Intel, Microsoft, and Sun

From the Compaq side, the roots of the technology derived from Tandem's ServerNet. For a short time before the group came up with a new name, InfiniBand was called System I/O.

InfiniBand was originally envisioned as a comprehensive "system area network" that would connect CPUs and provide all high speed I/O for "back-office" applications. In this role it would potentially replace just about every datacenter I/O standard including PCI, Fibre Channel, and various networks like Ethernet. Instead, all of the CPUs and peripherals would be connected into a single pan-datacenter switched InfiniBand fabric. This vision offered a number of advantages in addition to greater speed, not the least of which is that I/O workload would be largely lifted from computer and storage. In theory, this should make the construction of clusters much easier, and potentially less expensive, because more devices could be shared and they could be easily moved around as workloads shifted. Proponents of a less comprehensive vision saw InfiniBand as a pervasive, low latency, high bandwidth, low overhead interconnect for commercial datacenters, albeit one that might perhaps only connect servers and storage to each other, while leaving more local connections to other protocols and standards such as PCI.

As of 2009 InfiniBand has become a popular interconnect for high-performance computing, and its adoption as seen in the TOP500 supercomputers list is faster than Ethernet. In the recent years InfiniBand has been increasingly adopted in the enterprise datacenters.

In 2008 Oracle Corporation released its HP Oracle Database Machine build as a RAC Database (Real Application Clustered Database) with storage provided on its Exadata Storage server which utilises InfiniBand as the backend interconnect for all IO and Interconnect traffic. Updated versions of the Exadata Storage system, now using Sun computing hardware, continue to utilize InfiniBand infrastructure.

In 2009, IBM announced a December 2009 release date for their DB2 pureScale offering, a shared-disk clustering scheme (inspired by parallel sysplex for DB2 z/OS) that uses a cluster of IBM System p servers (POWER6/7) communicating with each other over an InfiniBand interconnect.

In 2010, scale-out network storage manufacturers increasingly adopt InfiniBand as primary cluster interconnect for modern NAS designs, like Isilon IQ or IBM SONAS. Since scale-out systems run distributed metadata operations without "master node", internal low latency communication is a critical success factor for highest scalability and performance.

In 2010, Oracle releases Exadata, Exalogic and SPARC SuperCluster machines, those implement the InfiniBand QDR with 40 Gbit/s (32 Gbit/s effective) using Sun Switches (Sun Network QDR InfiniBand Gateway Switch). The InifiniBand fabric is used to connect compute nodes and those with the storage, and is used to connect several Exadata and Exalogic machines also.

In June 2011, FDR switches and adapters were announced at the International Supercomputing Conference.

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