Intel's Qlogic deal pumps up InfiniBand's future

Buying Qlogic's high-end server interconnection products and hiring its employees supports Intel's supercomputing goal for 2018.

The InifiniBand Trade Association predicts faster speeds for InfiniBand.
The InifiniBand Trade Association predicts faster speeds for InfiniBand. InifiniBand Trade Association

Intel apparently believes there's life beyond Ethernet and USB.

Those industry-standard interfaces are taking over an ever larger number of jobs connecting one digital device to another. Its work with Apple to develop and promote Thunderbolt shows that the company doesn't think USB is the only way to plug a device into a PC, and a deal to acquire InfiniBand assets from Qlogic shows that it sees limits to Ethernet, too.

Intel didn't disclose terms of the deal but said it should close this quarter. Along with the InfiniBand product lines and related assets, Intel said it expected to hire "a significant number" of the Qlogic employees.

InfiniBand is a high-speed connection that links computers--typically powerful servers. When InfiniBand emerged in 1999, promoters including Intel saw it as the answer to the challenge of pumping data into and out of mainstream computers. But Intel withdrew from the InfiniBand chip market in 2002, instead backing the now-ubiquitous PCI Express technology.

Well, Intel now seems more excited about InfiniBand's potential in the high end of the market. Among the Top500 list of supercomputers, InifiniBand is relatively commonplace as a way to provide high-speed, low-delay links among nodes in clusters of hundreds or thousands of computers. Many of those machines use Ethernet, too, but InfiniBand has the performance edge today.

"This acquisition is designed to enhance Intel's networking portfolio and provide scalable high- performance computing (HPC) fabric technology as well as support the company's vision of innovating on fabric architectures to achieve exaflops performance by 2018," Intel said in a statement. One exaflops means a quintillion floating-point mathematical operations per second; today's fastest supercomputer reaches a mere 10 petaflops , a hundredth that of Intel's goal.

"The technology and expertise from Qlogic provide important assets to provide the scalable system fabric needed to execute on this vision. Adding Qlogic's InfiniBand product line to our networking portfolio will bring increased options and exceptional value to our datacenter customers," said Kirk Skaugen, who had led Intel's Data Center and Connected System Group but just took over as the chief of the PC Client Group .

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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