How will the use of InfiniBand affect the cloud computing market?

How will InfiniBand affect the cloud computing market?

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The emergence of cloud computing has given InfiniBand a boost in acceptance. Touted as the high-performance networking option of choice at its inception at the turn of the millennium, InfiniBand struggled to gain wide acceptance in the enterprise -- but it did find niche acceptance. The networking option has established itself as the interconnect of choice in many high-performance computing applications, replacing propriety technologies, such as Quadrics and Myrinet.

The need for similar capacity has emerged in the cloud market. Typically, cloud data centers consolidate server, storage and network functions in central locations. As system configurations become denser, the need for higher bandwidth network connections -- especially from server-to-server and server-to-storage -- becomes clearer.

While Ethernet has been the technology of choice in the enterprise data center, it has limitations in regards to these high bandwidth needs. Because of its long history, InfiniBand, which operates at 56 Gbps, is currently the more proven, mature, high-speed network option.

Vendors have moved to 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps Ethernet switches, but they have been a bit slow both to address the technical issues these systems present and deliver cost-effective products to market. Current InfiniBand switches are denser than the competing Ethernet options.

InfiniBand also delivers lower latency than Ethernet. As cloud applications scale out and become more distributed, network latency has a meaningful impact on performance. Delivering information in fewer microseconds becomes the difference between acceptable and unacceptable performance.

As cloud traffic increases, businesses need a proven, high-speed, high-density networking option. Because InfiniBand currently meets those requirements better than Ethernet, it likely will gain more traction in the cloud market in the short term.

About the author
Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in cloud computing issues. He is based in Sudbury, Mass., and can be reached at

This was first published in May 2013

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