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Build a 10 Gbit home network for $1100

Create the ultimate gaming supercomputer? You've overclocked, water cooled, matched DIMMs, added 10k drives and the latest 1 GB video card.

Create the ultimate gaming supercomputer? You've overclocked, water cooled, matched DIMMs, added 10k drives and the latest 1 GB video card. But so have all your friends. What now? How about a 10 Gig home network for the ultimate gaming supercomputer?

In a pricing breakthrough you can now buy an 8-port 10 Gig switch, 2 PCI-Express 10 Gig adapters and cables for under $1100. It is the fastest network available for the dollar. Update: By comparison the cheapest 10 gigE NIC at Newegg is almost $900.

One word, my friend: Infiniband No, this isn't 10 Gig Ethernet. An average 10 GigE switch port costs over $2500 today and the overhead of TCP/IP will bog down even hefty systems unless you buy a costly TOE (TCP/IP Offload Engine) adapter. No, this is Infiniband, a high-speed, low-latency, low-overhead network widely used in supercomputers, high-end storage and clustered computing.

Originally spec'd in 1999 by Intel, Microsoft and Sun (ngio) and Compaq, IBM and HP (Future I/O) to replace PCI, Infiniband has evolved into a general-purpose high-performance interconnect. As volumes have grown, prices have dropped, but this latest price-cutting iteration took me by surprise.

Drivers are available for Linux, Windows XP and OS X - though serious gamers aren't likely to be using the latter. The kit is available from Colfax Direct, a new e-store subsidiary of 20 year-old Colfax International.

Some pricing from their web site:

  • PCI-Express 10 Gbit adapter: $125
  • 8-port unmanaged switch: $750
  • Cables: range from $35 to over $900 for plenum-rated 100 M length

The Storage Bits take Networks and storage can often substitute for each other. With a 10 Gig low-latency network you can configure diskless workstations that really scream. While today's Infiniband networks are practical only for serious gear heads, early adopters will help point the way to a not-to-distant future when we all have 10 Gig home networks.

Commments welcome, of course. Disclosure: I have no relationship, financial or otherwise, with Colfax. I worked with Colfax's chip provider, Mellanox, at a previous company and found them a pleasure to deal with.