Thursday, November 09, 2006

Voices from the data center, Part 1

Thanks to Mike Krause, an I/O specialist in Hewlett-Packard's x86 server group, for his thoughts about data center convergence. Mike was one of the early proponents of iWarp, a version of Ethernet accelerated with Infiniband-like constructs such as remote direct memory access. Here are some highlights of what he shared with me this week:

On being agnostic: "Convergence is the buzz word for many people, but buzz can take years to translate into real production environments, and customers are a skittish crowd in the enterprise. Even Cisco has taken on the message of being interconnect independent, a message I've pushed for HP for many years now--build what the customer wants and needs rather than what the vendor wants it to be."

Infiniband as the converged fabric: "The IB community [is] in a bit of flux without a credible major company betting that IB is the converged fabric of choice for the enterprise. Certainly HP and Sun have positioned IB as primarily a High Performance Computing technology for the past few years. Will IBM enter in earnest the IB fray? With companies such as Sun and Intel being anti protocol off-load and long-term integrating Ethernet into processors, the IB vendors have to be worried that lock out can occur at any time."

Infiniband in storage: "There are no announced IB native storage [products] for companies such as EMC, IBM, HP, etc. This represents a significant hole in the [IB] convergence argument."

IP over Infiniband: "Micro-benchmarks yield only 2-3 Gbits/s out of the less than 8Gbits/s max possible. Skip past the marketing hype that IB is a 10 Gbits/s link since that is not the equivalent of a 10 GbE where one refers to raw signaling and application payload."

Fibre Channel "is in a bit of a long-term vision quagmire… it is not clear that the industry will invest to go beyond 8 Gbits/s to the 16 Gbits/s that is on many road maps. The optics vendors may balk at a straight 16 Gbits/s solution. Instead, they may want to de-rate a 10 Gbit/s WDM solution to 8 Gbits/s and then just scale up in multiples of 8."

iSCSI: "…not everything in iSCSI has been fully implemented."

Note: I'd love to hear other leading voices from the OEM community speak out. You can contact me at rbmerrit@cmp.com

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