Cisco Topspin Acquisition Paying InfiniBand Dividends

Just months after its US$250 million acquisition of Topspin, Cisco Systems today announced the first fruit of the merger’s labors: technology that will help customers power their on-demand computing systems.

Cisco said the latest elements of its Data Center Networking Architecture portfolio, InfiniBand-based Server Fabric Switch (SFS) portfolio and new VFrame 3.0 data center virtualization software, are now available.

InfiniBand is an interconnect architecture that connects servers with remote storage and networking devices and other servers. As such, Cisco’s new technologies are designed to connect and power data center computer, I/O and storage resources on-demand across a programmable grid.

Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of the Cisco Datacenter, Switching and Security Technology Group, called InfiniBand a compelling technology.

“By taking advantage of its inherent security and control capabilities, in addition to its well-publicized high bandwidth and low latency characteristics, we are able to deliver to our customers high performance networking combined with the economics of a unified fabric and the flexibility of data center virtualization,” Ullal said.

Connecting Servers

The new Cisco SFS product portfolio uses InfiniBand technology to provide a high performance unified fabric for connecting servers together into grids of computer resources. Coupled with the SFS advanced Ethernet and Fibre Channel gateway technology, Cisco said this combination helps link these server grids with shared LAN and SAN resources connected through Cisco Catalyst switches or Cisco MDS 9000 storage networking switches.

“While InfiniBand has received early acceptance in the high-performance clustered computing market, it is exciting to see the adoption of this technology now in mainstream enterprise deployments as well,” said Vernon Turner, group vice president and general manager of IDC’s Enterprise Computing.

“Combining InfiniBand with the virtualization capabilities of VFrame, Cisco has essentially delivered an open utility computing infrastructure that allows customers to get the benefits of on-demand computing with their individual server and storage platforms of choice.”

VFrame provides virtualization, orchestration and provisioning services to address Cisco data center resources, including: switching, data network, load balancing and security products. Cisco said it will become the foundation for a virtualization software suite that will deliver end-to-end manageability, control and virtualization across the data center network.

A Key Player

Technology Business Research networking analyst Bill Lefieur told TechNewsWorld there are many industry iterations about InfiniBand and where it should go. Cisco’s acquisition of Topspin put the technology mammoth in a prime position in a growing space.

“InfiniBand is certainly key to Cisco’s Data Center strategy because it wants to penetrate the data center in multiple ways and continues to overlap its role into the IT side,” Lefieur said. “Cisco is certainly closely aligned with IBM’s approach to InfiniBand. That alone is important.”

IBM calls it on-demand. Cisco calls it intelligent networking. Whatever you call it, analysts said that despite the alliance today, the companies may not remain so friendly when the InfiniBand market shakes out.

“Basically, the IT and network architectures are blurring together. But they have to, because when we are talking about virtualized environments, then we need a virtualized view of both the network layer and the IT layer,” Lefieur said. “Eventually IBM and Cisco may part ways if they can’t keep agreeing on how to share the future.”

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