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Senior Editor

Server interconnection technology

Apr 12, 20042 mins
Data Center

* Ethernet is likely to be the most popular server interconnect

As businesses move toward utility computing, where resources are pooled and allocated based on application demand, how servers in that environment communicate becomes increasingly important. Our Special Focus this week examines the server interconnect technologies that will likely play a big part in your server future.

Experts say 10G bit/sec Ethernet is likely to be the most popular server interconnect down the line – for all the reasons Ethernet is the most popular network technology of all time. In our story however, on observer says the trouble with Ethernet is CPUs have to handle the TCP offload burden that becomes increasingly heavy as network speeds increase, pushing more and more packets in and out of servers. When clusters of servers are running transaction-based applications such as databases, a slowdown in communication means a dramatic drop in application performance.

Meanwhile technologies such as Remote Direct Memory Access, which let servers place information directly into the memory of other servers, and TCP offload engines deal with this issue. In addition, interconnect technologies such as InfiniBand have been developed to provide alternatives to Ethernet, as well as to proprietary interconnects from companies such as Quadrics and Myricom. 

Analysts say that InfiniBand is emerging – albeit slowly – as the most likely alternative to Ethernet within corporate data centers. And while support for InfiniBand has been rejuvenated lately – InfiniBand switch vendor Topspin has inked partnerships with all the big name server vendors in recent months – Myricom and Quadrics also partner with the server vendors. Their technologies are found in many server clusters running in research labs and at universities.

Here’s a look at some key server interconnect numbers:

* InfiniBand, scales to 30G bits/sec, pricing ranges from $250 to $1,000 per port.

* Myricom’s Myrinet, 2G bit/sec, next generation will support 10G bit/sec, pricing $300 to $550 per port.

* Quadric’s QsNet, 7.2G bit/sec, pricing starts at about $2,000 per port.

* Gigabit Ethernet, 1G bit/sec, about $200 per port.

* 10 Gigabit Ethernet, 10G bit/sec, about $7,000 per port.

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