Intel Embraces New High-Speed Chip Standard

Intel Corp. announced Wednesday that it will begin building chips for InfiniBand, the emerging technology that is expected to eventually replace the way servers, networks and storage systems interact.

The new architecture is being pushed by computer titans IBM, Dell and Microsoft, who want the faster, more efficient technology to replace the current PCI (peripheral component interconnect) “bus” as the industry standard. Only a handful of companies are making InfiniBand chips currently, and analysts say Intel’s decision to make InfiniBand chips speeds the replacement process.

“InfiniBand architecture represents a great leap forward in Internet data center scalability,” Intel spokesman Tom Macdonald said at Intel’s Developer Forum in San Jose, California. “It will enable information technology managers to easily increase and scale their server, information storage, communications and processing power needs.”

Right Stuff

The new system is geared toward faster and simpler server-to-server and server-to-peripheral connections, and its performance range is expected to far surpass the current PCI bus system.

The InfiniBand Trade Association, composed of 180 companies and guided by a steering committee of Intel, IBM, Dell, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Sun Microsystems, said the new standard will help the industry as a whole.

“InfiniBand is the right technological advance, emerging at the right time and for the right reasons,” the association said.

The full specifications for InfiniBand technology is not expected to be final until the fall, and some analysts say it will take a while to be implemented in computer systems industry-wide, due to recent advances in PCI as well as the normal costs associated with changing to new architecture.

Stepping Up

Intel said it will make all three chips required for InfiniBand systems and plans to license its own InfiniBand chip design to others. It will also put InfiniBand technology into chipsets, which means that many Intel-based servers will come equipped with InfiniBand.

Intel has already invested in three InfiniBand startups, Banderacom, Mellanox and Crossroads. Other firms producing chips for InfiniBand are IBM, Agilent Technologies and Lucent Technologies.

Time to Share

Intel is also focusing attention on the revival of a 30 year-old concept known as “peer-to-peer” computing, which is the sharing of idle computer resources.

Currently, shared computing is used mainly for scientific projects. The most well-known peer-to-peer project is SETI@home, the Puerto Rico-based project that uses shared resources in its search for extra-intelligent life.

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