Introduction to InfiniBand

InfiniBand is a powerful new architecture designed to support I/O connectivity for the Internet infrastructure. InfiniBand is supported by all the major OEM server vendors as a means to expand beyond and create the next generation I/O interconnect standard in servers. For the first time, a high volume, industry standard I/O interconnect extends the role of traditional "in the box" busses. InfiniBand is unique in providing both, an "in the box" backplane solution an external interconnect and "Bandwidth Out of the box", thus it provides connectivity in a way previously reserved only for traditional networking interconnects. This unification of I/O and system area networking requires a new architecture that supports the needs of these two previously separate domains.

Underlying this major I/O transition is InfiniBand's ability to support the Internet's requirement for RAS: reliability, availability, and serviceability. This white paper discusses the features and capabilities which demonstrate InfiniBand's superior abilities to support RAS relative to the legacy PCI bus and other proprietary switch fabric and I/O solutions. Further, it provides an overview of how the InfiniBand architecture supports a comprehensive silicon, software, and system solution. The comprehensive nature of the architecture is illustrated by providing an overview of the major sections of the InfiniBand 1.0 specification. The scope of the 1.0 specification ranges from industry standard electrical interfaces and mechanical connectors to well defined software and management interfaces.

The paper is divided into four sections. The introduction sets the stage for InfiniBand and illustrates why all the major server vendors have made the decision to embrace this new standard. The next section reviews the effect InfiniBand will have on various markets that are currently being addressed by legacy technologies. The third section provides a comparison between switch fabrics and bus architecture in general and then delves into details comparing InfiniBand to PCI and other proprietary solutions. The final section goes into details about the architecture, reviewing at a high level the most important features of InfiniBand.

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