Cisco Snaps Up InfiniBand Firm

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Cisco Systems gave InfiniBand a big boost today by agreeing to buy networking gear maker Topspin Communications for $250 million in cash and options.

Privately-held Topspin is one of the top providers of switches designed to knit servers into a grid, adding network and storage. The switches also provide a backbone for utility computing, server virtualization and clustered applications.

Cisco said in a statement it would use Topspin’s technology to help customers build out grid computing in their data centers. Once relegated to research and development, grid computing is catching fire among commercial entities. Enterprises, service providers and universities are employing grids of computers to run high-performance applications.

Topspin’s devices shuttle data across networks using InfiniBand technology, a well-regarded technology that never quite caught on with vendors looking for speedier data transfer.

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said the purchase makes a lot of sense for Cisco, which lacks an InfiniBand-based switch. By arriving to InfiniBand a bit late, Topspin saved cash that rivals burned through and cultivated a more advanced portfolio than rivals like InfiniCon and Voltaire, he said.

Topspin’s savvy enabled it to win deals with IBM, Dell, HP and Sun Microsystems, which plug the Mountain View, Calif. company’s switches into their servers.

While some detractors have said InfiniBand is a wash, Haff noted the technology has had success in high-performance computing and shows promise in niche areas like database clusters.

“InfiniBand has arrived, if not at the pervasive, all-singing, all-dancing uber-fabric that its more breathless backers once predicted,” Haff said. “So this gives Cisco strong capability to play in InfiniBand fabrics. It also helps Cisco cover its bets somewhat — in the event that InfiniBand-based fabrics end up gaining some position against IP-based Ethernet ones.”

Cisco expects Topspin’s products will complement its network and storage switching lines, including its Ethernet-based Catalyst switching platform for the Internet and MDS switches for storage area networks (SANs).

When the deal closes, Topspin’s 135 employees will join Cisco’s Data Center, Switching and Wireless Technology Group, led by Senior Vice President Luca Cafiero.

“The widespread adoption of server architectures such as blades, grid computing, and clustered applications is driving an emerging market opportunity within the data center,” said Cafiero. “As our customers build out these new computing environments, it is important that we deliver server networking technologies to fit their needs.”

Cisco Boosts Heterogeneous SANs

Separately, Cisco said new network address translation capabilities for its Inter-Virtual SAN routing (IVR) feature give administrators the ability to merge legacy SANs and share resources across heterogeneous SANs.

Fibre Channel Network Address Translation (FC NAT), an enhancement of Cisco’s existing IVR function for SAN Routing, is available as part of the Cisco MDS 9000 SAN-OS 2.1 operating system. The tool lets customers route between multi-vendor SANs without address limitations.

Article courtesy of

Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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