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Cisco goes port crazy with Infiniband gear

Linking servers by the thousand

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SC05 Cisco Systems continues to make good on its Topspin acquisition. Come December, it will start shipping the 144-port and 288-port giants that once sat at the high-end of Topspin's Infiniband switch line. In addition, Cisco will wrap these products with some updated management software and cabling options.

Cisco announced the new Sever Fabric Switch (SFS) 7012 and 7024 at the Supercomputing conference here in Seattle. As we mentioned, the switches aren't really new. Cisco has simply certified the beasts and prepped them for delivery. It did the same thing in September with Topspin's lower-end gear.

"It takes some time to bring it all to the Cisco family," said Ben Eiref, product manager in Cisco's server, networking and virtualization unit. "You have to do all the testing, assign the part numbers and put the Cisco label on the systems."

While most customers might be daunted by the thought of a 288-port switch, the supercomputer crowd loves this stuff. In fact, Cisco's SFS gear now sits at the heart of a 4,500 server cluster unveiled this week by Sandia National Laboratories. Cisco also pointed to a number of other 500-server or greater clusters making use of the SFS - aka Topspin - gear.

Users familiar with Topspin should be pleased to see Cisco start selling the SFS Subnet Management software package.

In the past, Topspin had a subnet manager built-in to its switches. Cisco will still make this option available to most customers but will also sell the separate SFS Subnet Management software to customers running very large clusters.

"When you get to about 1,000 servers, you want to run the subnet manager outside of the cluster," Eiref said.

The subnet manager discovers and lists all of the servers in a cluster and handles traffic routing between the devices. The separate package will run on a standard x86 server and ship in the first quarter of 2006. Cisco has yet to release pricing for the package.

Cisco has also added Superflex copper cables and Optical Infiniband connections as options with the SFS gear. True geeks will enjoy the bend radius of the Superflex cables as its similar to what you'd find with Ethernet gear. Yes, you don't often get to talk about bend radius, so why not. ®

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