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High-performance switches and unified fabric software from Voltaire will
power high-performance computing solutions for Hewlett-Packard, Rackable
Systems and IBM. The new architecture will
enable solution providers to deliver computing systems with lower latency,
increase availability and streamline management.

The Grid Director 4700 and UFM (Unified Fabric Manager) software optimizes
throughput for multicore servers, improving the speed of high-performance computing
applications in industries including manufacturing, energy, financial services,
life sciences, government, and research and education, leading to greater
productivity, improved service levels and higher revenues, says Asaf Somekh,
vice president of marketing at Voltaire.

Voltaire’s 40GB InfiniBand director-class switch, the Grid Director 4700,
and new UFM software provide enhanced performance, scalability and ease of use
for large, high-performance clusters, says Somekh. When used together, the
switch and software also provide enterprise-class reliability, high
availability and streamlined manageability, he says.

For organizations that play in the high-performance computing space, such as
higher education, research, manufacturing and financial services arenas, the
new switches and the UFM software can’t come soon enough, says Somekh. While
spending among these verticals is challenged, solution providers say that their
financial services and manufacturing customers—particularly large organizations—will
adopt replacement technology if it improves operations and results in
cost-saving efficiencies.

“With processors evolving such as Intel’s Nahalem and AMD’s
Shanghai, our customers have
incredible computing power—servers are getting stronger, gaining more cores and
increasing I/O, and powerful applications are also being developed to take
advantage of these,” Somekh says.

But if your network switches and fabric aren’t performing well enough to
handle the increased processing power, all that processing power is pretty much
useless, he says.

“If your fabric is not capable enough, everything chokes. You just lost all
the power you paid for in these servers,” he says. With appetites increasing in
areas like government, higher education, research and financial services,
Somekh says the timing is perfect for Voltaire’s 40GB switches and UFM software
to take high-performance computing to the next level.

“We are seeing early adopters in higher education, research and government,
for instance, planning multipetaflop systems in 2009,” Somekh says. “There are
now thousands of interlinked servers, just waiting for those new CPUs from
Intel and AMD, and this is the perfect
opportunity for us—they have been waiting for switches like this.”

Part of Voltaire’s fourth-generation switch family, the Voltaire Grid
Director 4700 features 324 ports of 40GB-per-second InfiniBand connectivity,
with the option to double capacity to 648 ports using double-density fabric
boards. The double-density fabric boards are the basis for HyperScale
architecture, a unique stackable architecture for building larger
configurations into the hundreds and thousands of nodes, with lower latency and
greater simplicity than alternative solutions.

Voltaire began shipping a 36-port version of the 40GB switch, the Grid
Director 4036, in December 2008, and the Grid Director 4700 will become
available in the second half of 2009, Somekh says.

Even in high-performance computing environments, application latency can
degrade performance by a factor of 10 in real-life environments, says Somekh.
Voltaire’s objective was to deliver a switch that would eliminate that
performance loss and bring high-performance computing architectures back to the
performance levels they expected based on benchmarks, he says.

By doing so, Somekh says customers can preserve the investments they made in
data center technology and increase ROI.

“This is helping to preserve investments customers have made in expensive
hardware devices, especially those who are seeing cuts in budgets for new IT
and data center investments,” he says. By upgrading to faster switches,
customers can squeeze more value out of data center deployments that may be a
few years old, he says.

Voltaire also introduced UFM software, a comprehensive management software
package that increases visibility into large server and storage deployments and
helps optimize performance, Somekh says. UFM software monitors, analyzes and
optimizes fabric performance to improve the efficiency and utilization of large
InfiniBand fabrics.

It also efficiently monitors and analyzes fabric bottlenecks and errors,
allowing IT managers to quickly identify failures, inefficiencies and
performance issues and take corrective action.

“If end users don’t know what’s happening in their networks, how can they
optimize? Where is congestion happening? Can it be managed, mitigated or even
eliminated by changing physical placement of hardware or adding more
resources?” he says.

UFM can help resolve these issues by removing the additional latency that is
created in complex environments when multiple applications rely on a single
fabric to simultaneously transmit server and storage traffic, Somekh says. UFM
software integrates easily in legacy environments and has a rich Web services API
and SDK for easy integration with third-party management platforms, which means
organizations don’t have to rip and replace existing data center technology to
gain the benefits of UFM, says Somekh.

HP’s multicore Cluster Platforms are among those compatible
with Voltaire’s new Grid Director 4700 switch and Unified Fabric Manager
software, and Voltaire announced last week it will partner with IBM
to develop a Blade Center
solution that will include a port to directly connect to Grid Director
switches.

“By leveraging high-performance computing solutions to accelerate business
processes such as research, engineering or analysis, customers can improve
decision making, allowing them to grow their businesses,” says Ed Turkel,
manager of product marketing for the Scalable Computing and Infrastructure
organization at HP.

Rackable Systems is also among those vendors that see huge potential for the
new switches and UFM software with their customers.

Geoffrey Noer, vice president of product management at Rackable Systems,
says demand for InfiniBand technology, faster switches and software is rapidly
growing among many of Rackable’s customers.

“With Voltaire’s technology, we’ve seen a lot of customer successes in
financial services, though high-performance computing demand shows up across
the board,” says Noer, “whether in oil and gas, academic institutions,
automotive, manufacturing.”

Noer adds that while headlines scream daily about the decline of the stock
markets, Rackable’s financial services customers still need to speed up the
information-gathering and analysis process so they can make more informed,
faster trades.

Noer says he believes the introduction of Voltaire’s new technology will
push more customers to upgrade their existing infrastructure to take advantage
of the better performance and management, and he expects that adoption will
happen quickly.

“We expect adoption will be quite fast,” says Noer. “This technology is key
to building a lot of our future high-performance computing solutions.”