April 18, 2024

InfiniBand Series - Part 1: Demystifying the InfiniBand Versus Ethernet Debate

by: Align

Welcome to Part 1 of Align’s InfiniBand Series!

InfiniBand: An Interest Rekindled.

Some clients are just now hearing about a 25-year-old communications standard that many people inadvertently hedge their bets against by doubling down on Ethernet. Thanks to juggernauts like Nvidia, and other super-computer powerhouses, InfiniBand has made a huge resurgence in market discussions. This rekindled interest can be attributed to a confluence of factors such as the demand for faster data processing and the rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The Align Data Center team has decades of experience designing InfiniBand and Ethernet solutions, so over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring related topics to help people make the most informed decisions about their data center infrastructure.

Understanding the difference between communications standards, transmission media, and interfaces

This week, we’re diving into the relationship between Ethernet and InfiniBand. One thing that’s constantly coming up in the media and talks with clients is this “Ethernet vs. InfiniBand” debate which is actually like comparing apples and oranges.


To make this point clearer, let’s differentiate between the terms “communications standards,” “transmission media,” and “interfaces.”

Many people confuse communications standards with the transmission media needed. Communication standards delineate the protocols and specifications governing how data is transmitted and received within a network.

Examples of communications standards:

  • Ethernet
  • InfiniBand
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • USB

Transmission media, on the other hand, encompass the physical pathways through which data traverses, including copper, fiber, and wireless channels.

Examples of transmission media:

  • Twisted Pair Copper Cables
  • Coaxial and Twinax Copper
  • Fiber Optic Cables
  • Wireless Radio Frequencies

As an example scenario, consider a company upgrading its networking infrastructure to support higher data transfer speeds and lower latency for its AI and machine learning applications. In this case, the communication standard chosen might be InfiniBand, while the transmission media could include copper or fiber media depending on a variety of factors including location, cost, and distance limitations.

Another scenario could involve a university campus seeking to enhance its wireless network coverage. Here, the communication standard might involve Wi-Fi protocols, or a privatized 5G deployment while the transmission media would consist of wireless radio frequencies propagating through the air to connect devices.

Finally, interfaces serve as the conduits facilitating the connection between devices and transmission media, ensuring seamless communication, etc.

Align Experts Weigh In:

Rodney Willis_Circle“One thing I want to make clear is InfiniBand is the communication standard. It has nothing to do with a specific type of cable used for transmission.,” said Rodney Willis, Align’s VP of Sales and Sourcing.

“Many people believe it’s a different cabling infrastructure. The difference is more focused on the variables than the different components used. The question often becomes how you interface with the device and the transmission distance limitation and outside factors.”

With concepts like InfiniBand over Ethernet (IBOE) as well as Ethernet over InfiniBand (EoIB), and RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) the boundaries between these technologies blur, offering different possibilities for network architects.

Circle Headshots - 2024-04-12T102231.458“Implementing EoIB can be advantageous in scenarios where organizations seek to leverage existing Ethernet infrastructure while harnessing the high-speed, low-latency benefits of InfiniBand,” said John-Paul Cento, Program Manager at Align.

Conversely, IBOE finds utility when transitioning from legacy InfiniBand deployments to Ethernet-based networks without sacrificing performance.”

The experts at Align have witnessed firsthand the strategic deployment of these concepts, guiding clients toward optimal networking solutions and cabling infrastructure tailored to their unique needs.

Speak to an Align Data Center Expert: 

Visit our website to learn more about our Data Center Solutions by clicking here, or contact us today to get in touch with one of our team members. 

And of course, stay tuned for more on this topic as we continue with our InfiniBand Series over the following weeks. 

Continue Reading

Related Articles


“Align is our trusted provider for all our Managed Services and cybersecurity needs. They provide us best-in-class IT services that not only help drive productivity and growth, but ensure we meet both current and evolving compliance and security requirements with ease. As consultants to financial advisors, trust and reliability are indispensable to our operations, which is why we never hesitate to refer Align to our very own client base. Align isn’t just our partner, they are an extension of our team. We look forward to entrusting them with our IT infrastructure for years to come.”

Ed Fasano - Experienced Advisory Consultants LLC