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Intel's InfiniBand stance not surprising

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Intel's decision to step away from the next-generation InfiniBand bus standard is not all that unusual for a company that initiates and incubates standards-based technologies to sell more processors.

The company was instrumental in promoting the PCI bus, Gigabit Ethernet and wireless LAN standards. By getting involved in finding a market for standards-based technologies like those, Intel created a larger market for its industry-standard servers. Those servers will also, to all appearances, use InfiniBand silicon - just not Intel's own.

That Intel is leaving InfiniBand silicon production to companies such as Mellanox, Banderacom and IBM isn't a blow to the nascent market. IDC says that, by late 2005, 50% of the servers shipped will be InfiniBand-enabled. Many of those servers will use Intel processors.

Intel had also been working on 1x host channel adapters, while the rest of the industry had advanced to 4x silicon. By the end of 2001, Mellanox estimated that it had already shipped as many as 10,000 switch and adapter ports using 1- and 4x InfiniBand.

Users say InfiniBand's potential for success relies on large vendor support. Vendors that remain committed to InfiniBand are Dell, Microsoft and Sun. Dell recently announced that it would ship InfiniBand-enabled blade servers. And IBM isn't likely to drop a technology that looks so much like its host-based channel-attach technology.

HP, however, after acquiring Compaq, has grown lukewarm on InfiniBand. The company had originally announced that its blade servers would be InfiniBand-enabled. Now, it appears HP will use InfiniBand where it says the technology makes sense - and only if another technology such as its ServerNet, used to cluster NonStop servers, can't suffice.

Intel will turn the engineering resources it has expended on InfiniBand to its new prestandard bus, PCI Express. PCI Express, formerly called 3GIO, is a faster extension of the PCI bus. The goal of PCI Express, however, is not for clustering servers, something InfiniBand has been proposed to do well.

RELATED LINKS

Grid computing hits security gridlock
Network World, 06/10/02

Deni Connor is a senior editor at Network World covering storage, SANs, Novell and Novell-related products. You can reach her at dconnor@nww.com.

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