The InfiniBand Trade Association published a very useful white paper that is an introduction to InfiniBand technology. InfiniBand is a network technology that greatly boosts computing performance by allowing applications in different parts of a standard network to communicate without the standard network’s usual communication channels. By using only the server resources those applications need and little else, InfiniBand can significantly increase computational speed and performance. The white paper is definitely worth a read for anybody interested in high-performance computing (HPC).
Although InfiniBand has established itself as a standard for computing performance, you may also want to check out a different perspective about the competing technologies that are seeking to overtake InfiniBand.
As Nebojsa Novakovic writes in an article for The Inquirer, Intel, which created InfiniBand, may be putting it on the back-burner to promote 10GB Ethernet technology instead. Novakovic writes,
IB has very decent application support in high performance computing these days, however its protocol stack is fattened by its envisioned need to act as a common fabric for everything from storage access to networking and clustering, which naturally increases CPU load and latency.
So, if you really want a common single interconnect architecture for your datacentre or supercomputer, 10GE might make more sense, since all applications you might ever think of run on it anyway.
Intel is under pressure from AMD, its competitor. AMD has developed its own networking standard called High Node Count Hypertransport, which uses the hardware of Infiniband but not its exclusive protocols. Novakovic thinks that InfiniBand’s future may be in doubt, but until the new technologies that seek to challenge it mature, InfiniBand is still a sure bet for HPC.
Correction: Intel, as stated above, was not the sole creator of InfiniBand. Intel was one of several companies working on “Next Generation I/O”, a project which later merged with a competing venture to form the InfiniBand Trade Association (see the O’Reilly Introduction to InfiniBand Architecture). Thanks to “B” for the clarification.