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Dell, IBM and Sun to deliver InfiniBand servers

By Bob Brewin
December 19, 2002 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Dell Computer Corp., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. plan to build servers based on the high-speed InfiniBand I/O technology. Hardware from Dell and IBM is due to hit the market next year, and Sun servers will be available in 2004.
This development marks a quick reversal of fortunes for InfiniBand technology, which promises the ability to connect servers and storage systems in a data center at speeds from 2.5GB/sec. to 30GB/sec. vs. the roughly 1GB/sec. for existing Peripheral Component Interconnect technology.
Just last week, IBM said it planned to stop development of stand-alone InfiniBand chips and concentrate on custom chips used in high-end systems (see story). Intel Corp. stopped work on InfiniBand controller chips in June, and two months later Microsoft Corp. dropped plans to build InfiniBand management tools into its Windows .Net Server 2003 O/S.
Despite these developments, executives from the server divisions of Dell, IBM and Sun, in a series of coordinated briefings for journalists and analysts earlier this week, reaffirmed their commitment to the technology and outlined product deployment plans, although without any hard and fast dates.
Since Intel has dropped plans to make InfiniBand chips and IBM will concentrate on custom chips for high-end systems, the three companies will need to rely on chips from third-party vendors, according to IBM spokeswoman Lisa Lanspery. These include Mellanox Technologies Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., and Fujitsu Siemens Computers in Cologne, Germany.

IBM dropped development of a stand-alone InfiniBand chip because it didn't see enough of a market, said Bill O'Leary, a spokesman for the company's microelectronics division.
Lanspery, a spokeswoman for the server division, said, IBM as a whole remains committed to the technology. "The value is on the server side and not so much on the chip side. The money will come from selling servers," not chips, Lanspery said. She added that IBM is confident that there enough third-party manufacturers of Infiniband chips to support the company's InfiniBand server line.

Hewlett-Packard Co., one of the founders of the InfiniBand Trade Association, still remains interested in the technology but views it as one of many choices for connecting systems in a data center, said John Gromola, director of technology strategy in HP's industry standard server group.
Jimmy Pike, director of server architecture and technology at Round Rock, Texas-based Dell, said his company has already started to test InfiniBand host channel adapters and switches and plans to deploy the technology on its next generation of PowerEdge blade servers. He declined to provide an introduction date or pricing details.
Pike said he viewed the high I/O speed as a

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