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Intel drops plans for InfiniBand silicon

Posted: 27 May 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel? InfiniBand silicon? adapter? box-to-box interconnect? PCI Express I/O?

Intel Corp. has abandoned plans to provide InfiniBand silicon and will instead rely on third-party host control adapters that will be tied to future Intel server chip sets using the I/O standard.

Intel, which helped spearhead the box-to-box interconnect standard and was one of the first companies to field prototype chips, said it wants to shift its engineering resources to other areas like the emerging PCI Express I/O standard, formerly known as 3GIO.

"The InfiniBand ecosystem is maturing and several vendors are planning to supply products," an Intel spokeswoman said. "Intel's strategy is to focus on developing interfaces like PCI Express for future chip sets and to ensure high bandwidth for these third-party host controller adapter components which will ensure InfiniBand connectivity on Intel-based platforms."

The spokeswoman said Intel plans introduce a server chip set next year that will have hooks to InfiniBand, and cited IBM Corp. and Mellanox Technologies Inc. as two companies that could provide the InfiniBand silicon.

Jonathan Eunice, an analyst with Illuminata Inc., said the economic downturn has forced Intel and others to reexamine their product lines. "In terms of the economic flattening even companies like Intel and IBM feel constrained," he said.

Servers used in Web farms were one of Intel's targets for InfiniBand, and Intel had fielded a 2.5Gbps (or InfiniBand 1x) chip that would serve this market. But after that market soured, the company was left behind by other InfiniBand chip vendors that already developed higher-bandwidth 10-Gbit/s (InfiniBand 4x) controllers for back-end data centers. "It would have required a new investment if they had gone back to do the 4x," Eunice said.

There's still sufficient demand for 1x speeds, but 4x is coming on strong. "Lots of people will be happy with 1x but it looks like the market will require 10Gps performance as well," said Kevin Deierling, vice president of product marketing for Mellanox Technologies.

Deierling said Intel's decision not to produce InfiniBand chips does not reflect poorly on the state of the market for the I/O standard. By 2005, he expects 3 million to 4 million servers to be deployed that are InfiniBand-enabled, which should amount to more than a $1 billion market for InfiniBand silicon.

Volume production of InfiniBand chips should start late this year and early next year. "Initially it will be used with the Oracles and IBM DB2s and the data centers at the back-end. That's still growing," Deierling said.

And with one less heavyweight competitor to worry about, Mellanox and others are relishing the opportunity to pick up more customers. "It opens up the market opportunity and makes it more credible that we can get a larger market share," Deierling said.

? Anthony Cataldo

EE Times

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