InfiniBand stalwart Mellanox wants data centres to adopt 40Gbits/s InfiniBand as their primary high-speed converged network fabric. To help them it has introduced a family of devices capable of bridging it to both 10Gbits/s Ethernet and 8Gbits/s Fibre Channel. 

Mellanox said that the devices, called BridgeX, support Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and Fibre Channel over InfiniBand, so they can provide servers with SAN and NAS connectivity via either a 10Gbits/s Ethernet or 40Gbits/s InfiniBand switch.

The idea is that you keep your legacy storage and your Ethernet and Fibre Channel switches, but use InfiniBand switches for your low-latency server interconnect and your converged I/O fabric, said Gilad Shainer, Mellanox's technical marketing director. 

"We believe InfiniBand offers more performance and lower latency, but we want the user to be able to choose which transport to use," he said. 

"40Gbits/s is available now, running up to 7m over passive copper cables, 12m over active copper, and up to 300m over fibre."

Shainer claimed that where a server hosting VMware might currently require multiple Gigabit Ethernet cards plus a Fibre Channel adaptor, all those could be replaced by a single InfiniBand adaptor. 

He added that BridgeX can be used with Mellanox's ConnectX server NICs. These combine 40Gbit/s Infiniband and 10Gbit/s Ethernet in a single chip, and support virtualised I/O for VMware and the like. 

InfiniBand bridges are already available from QLogic and Voltaire, but Shainer pointed out that they offer bridges to Ethernet or Fibre Channel, whereas BridgeX can converge all three. 

He claimed that BridgeX also offers lower latency as it uses protocol encapsulation, whereas the others use protocol termination.

An early user of the device in the US said it was providing I/O consolidation for NFS storage delivered to a high-performance compute cluster.

"Integrating a BridgeX-based solution in our cluster provides seamless access to our existing LAN and SAN infrastructure that operates at line rates," said Mark Seager, an assistant department head at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 

BridgeX gateways are available now, Mellanox said. List pricing starts at $9,995 (around £7000) for a device with two 40Gbits/s InfiniBand uplinks and six to eight downlink ports, which can be configured as either 10Gbits/s Ethernet or 8Gbits/s Fibre Channel, using SFP+ modules.