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InfiniBand (abbreviated IB) is a computer-networking communications standard used in high-performance computing that features very high throughput and very low latency. It is used for data interconnect both among and within computers. InfiniBand is also utilized as either a direct, or switched interconnect between servers and storage systems, as well as an interconnect between storage systems.[1]

As of 2014 it was the most commonly used interconnect in supercomputers. Mellanox and Intel manufacture InfiniBand host bus adapters and network switches, and in February 2016 it was reported[2] that Oracle Corporation had engineered its own Infiniband switch units and server adapter chips for use in its own product lines and by third parties. Mellanox IB cards are available for Solaris, RHEL, SLES, Windows, HP-UX, VMware ESX,[3] AIX.[4] It is designed to be scalable and uses a switched fabric network topology.

As an interconnect, IB competes with Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and proprietary technologies[5] such as Intel Omni-Path.

The technology is promoted by the InfiniBand Trade Association.



Signaling rate (Gbit/s) 2.5 5 10 10.3125 14.0625[6] 25 50 100
Theoretical effective throughput, Gbs, per 1x[7] 2 4 8 10 13.64 24.24
Speeds for 4x links (Gbit/s) 8 16 32 40 54.54 96.97
Speeds for 12x links (Gbit/s) 24 48 96 120 163.64 290.91
Encoding (bits) 8/10 8/10 8/10 64/66 64/66 64/66
Adapter latency (microseconds)[8] 5 2.5 1.3 0.7 0.7 0.5
Year[9] 2001,
2005 2007 2011 2014[7] ~2017[7] after 2020

Links can be aggregated: most systems use a 4X aggregate. 12X links are typically used for cluster and supercomputer interconnects and for inter-switch connections.

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:

Physical interconnection[edit]

InfiniBand switch with CX4/SFF-8470 connectors

In addition to a board form factor connection, it supports both active and passive copper (up to 30 meters) and optical fiber cable (up to 10 km).[10] QSFP connectors are used.

The Infiniband Association also specified the CXP copper connector system for speeds up to 120 Gbit/s over copper and active optical cables.


InfiniBand has no standard API. The standard only lists a set of verbs like ibv_open_device or ibv_post_send, which are abstract representations of functions or methods 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 led to the formation of the InfiniBand Trade Association (IBTA), which included 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.[11] 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 burst of the dot-com bubble there was hesitation in the industry to invest in such a far-reaching technology jump.[12]


  • 2001: Mellanox ships InfiniBridge 10Gbit/s devices and ships over 10,000 InfiniBand ports.[13]
  • 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 development in favor of extending Ethernet, although Sun and Hitachi continue to support IB.[14]
  • 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.[12] The OpenFabrics Alliance develops a standardized, Linux-based InfiniBand software stack. The following year Linux adds IB support.[15]
  • 2005: IB begins to be implemented as an interconnect for storage devices.[16]
  • 2009: of the top 500 supercomputers in the world, Gigabit Ethernet is the internal interconnect technology in 259 installations, compared with 181 using InfiniBand.[17]
  • 2010: Market leaders Mellanox and Voltaire merge, leaving just one other IB vendor, QLogic, primarily a Fibre Channel vendor.[18] Oracle makes a major investment in Mellanox.
  • 2011: FDR switches and adapters announced at the International Supercomputing Conference.[19]
  • 2012: Intel acquires QLogic's InfiniBand technology.[20]
  • 2016: Oracle Corporation manufactures its own InfiniBand interconnect chips and switch units.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "InfiniBand Cards - Overview". Mellanox. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "Implementing InfiniBand on IBM System p (IBM Redbook SG24-7351-00)" (PDF). 
  5. ^ Vance, Ashlee (2010-10-28). "China Wrests Supercomputer Title From U.S.". New York Times. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^ // Mellanox
  9. ^ Panda, Dhabaleswar K.; Sayantan Sur (2011). "Network Speed Acceleration with IB and HSE" (PDF). Designing Cloud and Grid Computing Systems with InfiniBand and High-Speed Ethernet. Newport Beach, CA, USA: CCGrid 2011. p. 23. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Specification FAQ". ITA. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  11. ^ Pentakalos, Odysseas. "An Introduction to the InfiniBand Architecture". O'Reilly. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Kim, Ted. "Brief History of InfiniBand: Hype to Pragmatism". Oracle. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "Timeline". Mellanox Technologies. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "Sun confirms commitment to InfiniBand". The Register. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Linux Kernel 2.6.11 Supports InfiniBand". Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "Is InfiniBand poised for a comeback?", Infostor, 10 (2) 
  17. ^ Lawson, Stephen. "Two rival supercomputers duke it out for top spot". COMPUTERWORLD. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  18. ^ Raffo, Dave. "Largest InfiniBand vendors merge; eye converged networks". Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  19. ^ "Mellanox Demos Souped-Up Version of InfiniBand". CIO. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  20. ^ "Intel Snaps Up InfiniBand Technology, Product Line from QLogic". HPCwire. January 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  21. ^ "Oracle Engineers Its Own InfiniBand Interconnects". The Next Platform. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 

External links[edit]

  • Dissecting a Small InfiniBand Application Using the Verbs API, arXiv:1105.1827Freely accessible