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InfiniBand is a computer network communications link used in high-performance computing featuring very high throughput. It is used for data interconnect both among and within computers. As of 2014 it is the most commonly used interconnect in supercomputers. InfiniBand host bus adapters and network switches are manufactured by Mellanox and Intel. Mellanox IB cards are available for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Windows, HP-UX, VMware ESX. It is designed to be scalable and uses a switched fabric network topology. Outside of supercomputers, it competes with Fibre Channel, PCI Express, Serial ATA, Gigabit Ethernet, Thunderbolt, Firewire, and USB, among others. The technology is promoted by the InfiniBand Trade Association.
|Theoretical effective throughput, Gbs||2||4||8||10||14||25|
InfiniBand also provides RDMA capabilities for low CPU overhead.
InfiniBand uses a switched fabric topology, as opposed to early shared medium Ethernet. All transmissions begin or end at a channel adapter. Each processor contains a host channel adapter (HCA) and each peripheral has a target channel adapter (TCA). These adapters can also exchange information for security or quality of service (QoS).
InfiniBand transmits data in packets of up to 4 KB that are taken together to form a message. A message can be:
- a direct memory access read from or, write to, a remote node (RDMA).
- a channel send or receive
- a transaction-based operation (that can be reversed)
- a multicast transmission.
- an atomic operation
InfiniBand has no standard API. The standard only lists a set of verbs, functions that must exist. The syntax of these functions is left to the vendors. The de facto standard software stack is that developed by OpenFabrics Alliance. It is released under two licenses GPL2 or BSD license for GNU/Linux and FreeBSD, and as WinOF under a choice of BSD license for Windows. It has been adopted by most of the InfiniBand vendors, for GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, and Windows.
InfiniBand originated in 1999 from the merger of two competing designs: Future I/O and Next Generation I/O. This leads to the formation of the InfiniBand Trade Association, including Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Sun. At the time it was thought some of the more powerful computers were approaching the interconnect bottleneck of the PCI bus, in spite of upgrades like PCI-X. Version 1.0 of the InfiniBand Architecture Specification was released in 2000. Initially the IBTA vision for IB was simultaneously a replacement for PCI in I/O, Ethernet in the machine room, cluster interconnect and Fibre Channel. IBTA also envisaged decomposing server hardware on an IB fabric. Following the bursting of the dot-com bubble there was hesitation in the industry to invest in such a far-reaching technology jump.
- 2001: Mellanox ships InfiniBridge 10Gb/s devices and ships over 10,000 InfiniBand ports.
- 2002: adoption takes a setback when Intel announces that instead of shipping IB chips it would focus on developing PCI Express, and Microsoft discontinues IB evelopment in favor of extending Ethernet, although Sun and Hitachi continue to support IB.
- 2003: Virginia Tech builds an InfiniBand cluster ranked number three on the Top500 at the time.
- 2004: IB starts to see adoption as a clustering interconnect, beating Ethernet on latency and price. The OpenFabrics Alliance develops a standardized, Linux-based InfiniBand software stack. The following year Linux adds IB support.
- 2005: IB begins to be implemented as an interconnect for storage devices.
- 2009: of the top 500 computers in the world, Gigabit Ethernet is the internal interconnect technology in 259 installations, compared with 181 using InfiniBand.
- 2010: Market leaders Mellanox and Voltaire merge, leaving just one other IB vendor, QLogic, primarily a Fibre Channel vendor. Oracle makes a major investment in Mellanox.
- 2011: FDR switches and adapters announced at the International Supercomputing Conference.
- 2012: Intel acquires QLogic.
Chinese researchers have reportedly developed an interconnect that can handle data at about twice the speed of InfiniBand. This technology was used in the Tianhe-I supercomputer, which took first place in the TOP500 listing in October 2010.
- SCSI RDMA Protocol (SRP)
- iSCSI Extensions for RDMA (iSER)
- List of device bandwidths
- Optical interconnect
- Optical communication
- Parallel optical interface
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