Intel Still Talking About InfiniBand

Intel was one of the loudest, largest and most active early backers of InfiniBand. That's why the chip giant's decision over the summer to discontinue work on hardware products involving the fledgling server interconnect technology was widely viewed as a very bad sign for InfiniBand.

On Wednesday, Intel showed it was still willing to at least be loud. The chipmaker is anchoring an InfiniBand evaluation program to help IT organizations evaluate initial InfiniBand fabrics supporting Intel architecture server platforms. The program was announced in Tokyo at the Intel Developer Forum.

Because Intel in early June dropped plans to deliver an InfiniBand host channel adapter, switch and target channel adapter, Intel will have no branded hardware to promote through the program other than its processors.

Instead, Intel will take a kind of project leader role in the InfiniBand pilot programs: finding a lead supplier, tracking progress, monitoring deadlines and making sure needs of early adopters are met.

Partners in the program include Dell, IBM, InfiniCon, InfiniSwitch, JNI, Lane15 Software, Libra Networks, Mellanox Technologies, OmegaBand, Oracle, Paceline, RedSwitch, Topspin, VIEO and Voltaire.

Also over the summer, Microsoft pulled support for InfiniBand from beta versions of Windows .NET Server 2003 after having promised InfiniBand support in the operating system for several years.

The InfiniBand architecture is a new way of handling I/O that revises traditional ideas about what constitutes a server. Networking, storage and other traditional server components would be offloaded and pooled, reducing latency, easing connectivity and improving bandwidth. On the downside, the approach requires a complete hardware overhaul -- a major reason cited by Microsoft for pulling out in the Windows .NET Server 2003 timeframe.

At a time when IT budgets are falling rather than growing, Microsoft officials said there wasn't a need to provide the support in this version of the operating system, which is supposed to ship early next year. A Microsoft Web page for InfiniBand information has been pulled, giving little guidance about Microsoft's future plans for the technology. However, the company has said it would work with partners to enable Windows InfiniBand solutions.

Intel's public reason for discontinuing plans to produce InfiniBand-based hardware was a business decision to focus on the core business of processors.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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