Cereal, Solutions, and Infiniband

I guess I think too much in the morning while eating breakfast. My wife sometimes calls me a boring engineer because I usually eat the same breakfast cereal 5 days a week and have for many years. Well almost. See, I sort of think of my morning meal as a breakfast solution. While I may start with the same organic high fiber flakes from Trader Joes, the custom add-ons do change. In fact, I used to purchase a "turnkey breakfast solution", the kids called it raisin bran, until Trader Joes started stocking plain organic flakes. I then had to go out and find my own raisins. Several years back, I don't remember exactly why, I switched to dried blueberries. Maybe I had read an article on the anti-cancer benefits of blueberries or perhaps we were just out of raisins. In any case, now I'm almost always a blueberry person. Even have fresh blueberries on my cereal when Trader Joes carries them. But never frozen, too hard to chew.

Of course, after breakfast I'm often off to help Sun's education and research customers develop high performance computing (HPC) and grid applications. Today a favorite architecture for HPC solutions is to build large supercomputers out of commodity servers and connect them with a high speed low latency interconnect. A year ago, by far the most popular interconnect was Myrinet . While Myrinet is still quite popular, we have seen a huge growth in interest in the last six months in Infiniband based solutions, judging by what our customers are asking for in RFPs.

One of the perceived advantages of Infiniband is that you have multiple Infiniband network interface card and switch vendors while Myrinet is only supplied by a single vendor. I don't have time today to comment on that argument so I'll simply give you links to the four major Infiniband vendors and let you decide for yourself.

  • Infinicon
  • Mellanox
  • Topspin
  • Voltaire

    If you spend much time evaluating Infiniband, one thing you will quickly learn is that all the major Infiniband vendors use the same Infiniband chipset which is developed by Mellanox. One would think that would give Mellanox an unfair advantage, sort of like Intel manufacturing PCs, but in fact each vendor has their strengths and market focuses.

    Don't have time right now to describe how Sun deliveres an integrated compute cluster solution with servers, infiniband, and grid software, but lets just say we don't just ship you a box of cereal and a bag of dried blueberries.

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