Cisco has launched a protocol it has jointly developed with Oracle that it claimed would help users running databases over larger server clusters.

The two vendors developed the RDS (Reliable Datagram Sockets) protocol and will make it part of an industry-developed open-source software distribution called Open Fabrics Enterprise Distribution, said Pramod Srivatsa, a product line manager for Cisco server fabric switches. It is intended for Cisco switches using Infiniband high-speed datacentre technology.

Growing datacentres and demands for processing have driven the development of new forms of connectivity, such as Infiniband and 10-Gigabit Ethernet, between servers in datacentres. But pure networking speed - up to 20Gbit/s in the case of Infiniband - isn't all that's needed to make datacentres run faster.

Enterprises that want to set up a very large deployment of the Oracle 11g database software once had to do it on a single large server, Srivatsa said. Oracle already offers RAC (Real Application Clusters) 11g software for distributing that deployment over multiple, smaller Intel-based servers running Linux. But that only works up to a cluster of about four servers, and RDS makes it more scalable, he said. RDS has been tested successfully with as many as 16 servers and is designed to work for clusters of as many as 64 using Infiniband, according to Srivatsa.

Infiniband is well-suited to Oracle database software because it has to quickly exchange many messages of varying sizes, Srivatsa said. Mellanox, which supplies some of Cisco's chips for Infiniband switches, helped develop RDS. In the future, customers will probably be able to use RDS with 10-Gigabit Ethernet too, Srivatsa said.

RDS was designed for clusters of servers in one datacentre, which could include blade as well as rack servers, he said. Customers of both Oracle and Cisco can request the software from the companies now and start testing it. Cisco will start providing RDS for commercial use in its Infiniband servers after it is certified by Oracle, probably next month, Srivatsa said.