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InfiniBand vs. Ethernet—the Race is On!

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – January 16, 2024 – According to the new AI Networks for AI Workloads report by Dell’Oro Group, the trusted source for market information about the telecommunications, security, networks, and data center industries, spending on switches deployed in AI back-end networks is forecast to expand the Data Center Switch Market by 50 percent. Current data center switch market spending is on front-end networks used primarily to connect general-purpose servers. AI workloads will require a new back-end infrastructure buildout. The competition intensifies between InfiniBand and Ethernet as manufacturers vie for market dominance in AI back-end networks. While InfiniBand is expected to maintain its lead, Ethernet is forecast to make substantial gains, such as 20 revenue-share points by 2027.

“Generative AI applications usher in a new era in the age of AI, standing out for the sheer number of parameters that they have to deal with,” said Sameh Boujelbene, Vice President at Dell’Oro Group. “Several large AI applications currently handle trillions of parameters, with this count increasing tenfold annually. This rapid growth necessitates the deployment of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of accelerated nodes. Connecting these accelerated nodes in large clusters requires a data center-scale fabric, known as the AI back-end network, which differs from the traditional front-end network used mostly to connect general-purpose servers.

“This predicament poses the pivotal question: what is the most suitable fabric that can scale to hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of accelerated nodes while ensuring the lowest Job Completion Time (JCT)? One could argue that Ethernet is one speed generation ahead of InfiniBand. Network speed, however, is not the only factor. Congestion control and adaptive routing mechanisms are also important. We analyzed AI back-end network build-outs by the major Cloud Service Providers (such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, Alibaba, Tencent, ByteDance, Baidu, and others) as well as various considerations driving their choices of the back-end fabric to develop our forecast,” continued Boujelbene.

Additional highlights from the AI Networks for AI Workloads Report:

  • AI networks will accelerate the transition to higher speeds. For example, 800 Gbps is expected to comprise the majority of the ports in AI back-end networks by 2025, within just two years of the latest 800 Gbps product introduction.
  • While most of the market demand will come from Tier 1 Cloud Service Providers, Tier 2/3 and large enterprises are forecast to be significant, approaching $10 B over the next five years. The latter group will favor Ethernet.

About the Report

Dell’Oro Group’s AI Networks for AI Workloads Advanced Research Report explores the use cases that optimize InfiniBand vs. Ethernet in AI back-end networks, as well as the choices made by large Cloud Service Providers. The report also provides a 5-year market forecast on a worldwide basis, by customer type, by InfiniBand vs. Ethernet, and by port speed. For more information about the report, please contact us at dgsales@delloro.com.

About Dell’Oro Group

Dell’Oro Group is a market research firm that specializes in strategic competitive analysis in the telecommunications, security, enterprise networks, and data center infrastructure markets. Our firm provides in-depth quantitative data and qualitative analysis to facilitate critical, fact-based business decisions. For more information, contact Dell’Oro Group at +1.650.622.9400 or visit https://www.delloro.com.