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InfiniBand chipmaker wins $56 million

Mellanox Technologies, a company that makes chips for use with the InfiniBand high-speed communications technology, raises funding from Sun, Dell and others.

Mellanox Technologies, a company that makes chips for use with the InfiniBand high-speed communications technology, has raised $56 million in funding from Sun Microsystems, Dell Computer and others.

The investment, part of an $89 million total the company has received, will be used to develop chips that can transfer data at 10 gigabytes per second and 30 gigabytes per second, the company said Monday.

InfiniBand, when it debuted as an idea in 1999, was expected to be the successor to the PCI data pathway that's universally used to plug in network cards and storage-system controllers. Now, however, InfiniBand is headed for a more specialized market.

Mellanox, which began selling its first-generation InfiniBand chips more than a year ago, believes InfiniBand will be used to split servers into their constituent components. CPUs (central processing units) will be in one area, joined via InfiniBand to storage systems in another area and to networks in yet another area. The strategy would enable administrators to buy systems with the right amount of resources--for example, lots of processors for CPU-intensive work or lots of network connections for communications-intensive work.

Many believe InfiniBand will have a place in data centers, the corporate computing rooms stuffed with high-end equipment. But others think plain old Internet protocol (IP)--the communications protocol that underlies the Internet--will suffice.

Mellanox has attracted some high-profile investors, though. Besides Sun and Dell, new investors include JNI, Quanta Computers, Jerusalem Global Ventures, Banc of America Securities, China Development Investment Bank and Walden Israel Venture Capital. Previous investors include Intel, Vitesse Semiconductor, Sequoia Capital, US Venture Partners and Raza Venture Management.

In addition, the company said Rob S. Chandra of Bessemer Venture Partners has joined its board of directors. Other board members include Irwin Federman of US Venture Partners, Pierre Lamond of Sequoia Capital, Atiq Raza of Raza Venture Management and Eyal Waldman of Mellanox.

Mellanox has corporate headquarters and sales operations in Santa Clara, Calif., with design work in Israel. It has more than 200 employees.