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Voltaire preps InfiniBand switch for IBM blades

Cisco on the outs

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Network switch maker Voltaire has landed a deal with IBM to create a new 40 Gbit/sec InfiniBand quad-data rate (QDR) switch for Big Blue's BladeCenter blade server chassis.

Voltaire, which does a fair amount of clustering in supercomputing and data warehousing with IBM and its blades, is keen on keeping ahead of Ethernet switches. Sources at Voltaire say that prices for InfiniBand switches are expected to be only about 20 per cent higher than what companies have been paying for 20 Gbit/sec DDR InfiniBand connectivity and that even with this premium, QDR InfiniBand is still less expensive than 10 Gigabit Ethernet or 4 Gbit Fibre Channel links for servers and storage, respectively. And those are obviously packing a lot less bandwidth punch.

Voltaire has been shipping QDR InfiniBand switches for a while. Back in December, the company announced a 36-port switch called the Grid Director 4036, and last week, the company launched a much larger 324-port behemoth called that Grid Director 4700. Using double-density fabric boards in the switches, the Grid Director 4700 can handle up to 648 ports. IBM will announce the feeds, speeds, and pricing for the new BladeCenter switch when it launches, which is expected before the middle of the year.

Voltaire makes switches for blade and rack servers that are sold by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Rackable Systems, and Silicon Graphics. Voltaire switches are used in IBM's "Roadrunner" petaflops supercomputer at Los Alamos National Labs and in the Oracle-HP Database Machine, a massive data warehouse that was announced last fall. Considering how annoyed server makers will be with Cisco Systems when it jumps into the blade server market later this year with its "California" products, Voltaire, Blade Network Technologies, Brocade, QLogic, and others can look forward perhaps to a little extra love from Big Blue.

IBM has already been withdrawing some love from Cisco in recent weeks. In January, IBM stopped selling Cisco's Fibre Intelligent Gigabit Ethernet switch module for its BladeCenters, and it also killed off the 4X InfiniBand expansion card for BladeCenters from Cisco. (Four-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet expansion cards from Broadcom were killed off as well) Last week, IBM killed off the 20-port 4 Gbit/sec FC switch made by Cisco, which also slotted into the BladeCenter. A bunch 4 Gb switches from QLogic were also killed off, but unlike the Cisco products, which had no replacements, the QLogic products were refreshed with 8 Gb FC switches. Read into what you will. ®

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