Intel jumps off Infini-bandwagon

Intel Corp. has cancelled its plans to sell chips for Infiniband products, a company spokesman confirmed Friday. One analyst said the move likely isn’t a major setback for the emerging I/O technology, which is being supported by several other big vendors.

Infiniband promises to widen the data pipeline between servers, storage equipment and other networked equipment, replacing existing 1G-bps (bit-per-second) PCI-X and Gigabit Ethernet technologies with a switch fabric I/O that will initially offer data rates of 2.5G bps to 10Gbps.

Intel had earlier said that it planned to offer silicon chips for use in Infiniband host control adapters (HCAs) that plug into existing PCI and PCI-X slots, but it has now pulled the plug on those efforts.

“We’ve decided to discontinue work on Infiniband host control adapters,” said Intel spokesman Daven Oswalt. “We still strongly support Infiniband and will continue to work with the Infiniband Trade Association and do what it takes to aid successful deployment of Infiniband on the Intel architecture.”

Intel believes the “ecosystem” around Infiniband has evolved to a point where its products aren’t required for the technology to move forward, he said.

IBM Corp. and Mellanox Technologies Inc., a startup in Santa Clara, California, already offer components for Infiniband equipment. More than 20 other vendors showed Infiniband products at the recent Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, including Adaptec Inc., Infinicon Systems Inc. and Bandercom Inc.

“Intel is certainly one of the key players in bringing the specification into existence, but a lot of the intellectual property and knowledge actually came from other participants in the Infiniband Trade Association,” including IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64, in Saratoga, California.

For that reason, Intel’s decision to kill its Infiniband product plans, though something of a setback, shouldn’t be a major blow to the technology.

“Intel was making a contribution, but they certainly were one of many players,” he said.

Intel had been supporting an early “1x” version of the technology, but the industry has since embraced a faster, “4x” version, Brookwood noted.

“From Intel’s perspective, they were looking at how to allocate their resources and they saw that there were lots of people who were doing Infiniband,” Brookwood said. “They realized they would have to either increase their investment to get to 4x,” or scrap their product plans all together.