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Mellanox SwitchX-2 for High Performance and Cost Savings

Mellanox’s new SwitchX-2 is actually a new network type: converged InfiniBand and Ethernet. The switch works like InfiniBand to provide advanced SDN capabilities, and leverages fabric characteristics including flatter fabric topology, QoS, and low latency. At the same time it allows each port to be configured as Ethernet or InfiniBand. In my opinion, this is some kind of genius.   

The switch is based on Mellanox’s Virtual Protocol Interconnect (VPI) architecture and converges InfiniBand and Ethernet into a single switch with a built-in gateway. In this scenario, InfiniBand isn’t just an exotic fabric only suitable for high performance computing. Rather it benefits the control plane with its HPC features, while enabling both IB and Ethernet protocols to happily co-exist on the data plane.

SwitchX-2 is aimed at carrying VPI technology from SwitchX-1 forward into large scale environments. It feeds into Mellanox’s vision of  Software Defined Networking (SDN), which seeks to exploit VPI technology for large scale deployment. The Mellanox vision for SDN includes separating the control and data planes, centralizing network management and views, allowing network programming by external applications, and enabling highly efficient fabric interconnects.

Because of the SDN functionality inherited from the InfiniBand side, SwitchX-2 owners can deploy a flatter switch hierarchy. This can save money to the point where it’s possibly even cheaper than an Ethernet-only solution, while providing extremely fast core networking. Cutting down on the amount of equipment also helps to lower energy usage and heat generation in datacenters with high energy costs or power availability concerns. This points to a number of new possibilities around data center fabric architectures. For example, Ethernet at the edges and InfiniBand between switches with  converged fabric gateway/routing built-in to the switch. This convergence can result in very high performance storage networking and server networking.

The story cannot just be around InfiniBand and Ethernet interconnection in a switch, as exciting as that may be. Performance numbers must also be impressive. They are: low latency 170ns for InfiniBand and 220ns for Ethernet, even if the switch is fully occupied. The SwitchX-2 can do 4 Terabit switching on a single chip.

Supported SDN integrations with OpenFlow and OpenStack are coming within 6 months.

Mellanox has taken on a new efficiency focus for large infrastructures, seeking to make them more easily deployable, manageable and more cost effective. The SwitchX-2 is a lynchpin for this strategy, enabling top network performance and converged fabrics for enterprise data centers, cloud-based data centers and for Web 2.0 server and storage environments.


  • Premiered: 10/17/12
  • Author: Taneja Group
Topic(s): Mellanox fabric InfiniBand Ethernet Switch SwitchX-2


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