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June 21, 2012

Mellanox Pushes I/O Barrier with New Connectivity Solutions

Companies that require high performance computing or are building server clusters should consider more than just CPU performance.

“CPUs double their performance every 18 months,” said David Barzilai, vice president of marketing at Mellanox (News - Alert) Technologies, in a conversation during the Interop conference last month. “But once you do that, and applications are running faster, they also require much more I/O.”

Mellanox supplies end-to-end InfiniBand and Ethernet connectivity solutions for companies such as IBM (News - Alert), Oracle and EMC.

“In most cases, what you see is that servers are idle most of the time,” Barzilai explained. “The virtualization of servers in the cluster is about 15 percent. But once you open up the gate, you have fast interconnect for your servers and storage that utilization goes up to about 90 percent, applications run faster, and you get much more applications on the same footprint.”



Improving throughput and reducing latency is more of an issue than CPU cores and frequency, Barzilai noted.

One product recently released by Mellanox to address the issue is its new Connect-IB, a scalable server and storage adapter solution for high-performance computing (HPC), Web 2.0, cloud, big data, financial services, virtualized data centers and storage environments. Connect-IB adapters deliver throughput of 100Gb/s utilizing PCI (News - Alert) Express 3.0 x16, scale with innovative transport services, have sub-microsecond latency and allow 130 million messages per second.

The Connect-IB product line consists of single and dual port adapters for PCI Express 3.0 with options for x8 and x16 host bus interfaces as well as a single port adapter for PCI Express 2.0 x16.  Each port supports FDR 56Gb/s InfiniBand with MPI ping latency less than 1us. All Mellanox HCAs support CPU offload of transport operations and RDMA for efficient computing.

Virtual Protocol Interconnect (VPI) is another technology Mellanox is pioneering to improve I/O. It allows network cards to switch among protocols.

“That means you can run the server and storage interconnect either as 56Gb InfiniBand or 40Gb Ethernet with the flip of a switch,” Barzilai said. “We think that applications need it, and we know there’s not even enough there.”

There’s more to come, too.

“We are now working on the 100Gb Ethernet,” he said, “which we are going to have in the beginning of 2014. And again, we expect that the faster CPUs are going, the more complex the data is. And also you need higher throughput and lower latency.”

The innovation has proved successful for the firm, which recently announced that it had surpassed $1 billion in accumulated revenue since the company’s inception in 1999.

“We are just killing the competition,” Barzilai said. With Mellanox products, “the latency is about a third or a quarter of the competition. The throughput is about double the competition. The power consumption is about a sixth of the competition.”

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Edited by Rich Steeves
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