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AMD alumnus takes up new chip cause

Former AMD vice president of marketing Dana Krelle joins Mellanox, a chip start-up that is betting on the success of the once-vaunted InfiniBand connection technology.

The former marketing chief of chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices is taking over a similar post at Mellanox, a start-up banking on the future success of InfiniBand high-speed communications technology.

Dana Krelle, former vice president of marketing at AMD, is now the leader of marketing at Mellanox, a company representative confirmed Monday.

Krelle left AMD in 2000 along with former AMD President Atiq Raza to form Raza Foundries. Raza's group joined Intel, Sequoia Capital, US Venture Partners and others who invested $25.7 million in Mellanox in 2000. More recent investors include Dell Computer and Sun Microsystems.

Mellanox builds chips for use in building high-speed InfiniBand connections between components or between systems. Mellanox eventually hopes InfiniBand connections will join server processors to each other and to storage systems, essentially breaking computers apart into subsystems lashed together with numerous InfiniBand switches.

With an InfiniBand set-up, companies will be able to buy just what computing resources are needed--just the right balance of storage systems, processing power and communications capability.

Stacking up the odds
Mellanox is doing its part to advance this effort by releasing chips that can send data at 10 gigabits per second. Today, it released a new "reference" computer called Nitro II, a design computer that designers may copy to build InfiniBand servers.

The Nitro II design stacks as many as 14 server "blades" side by side in the same cabinet. Each blade has a 2.2GHz Pentium 4 processor and memory but, unlike current blade servers, no hard drive. The blades are joined to each other and to storage systems with two 16-port 10-gigabit-per-second InfiniBand switches.

But InfiniBand hasn't seen the booming success for which advocates had hoped. Initially expected in 2001 as a successor to the widely used PCI data pathway, it's only now beginning to trickle into some computer equipment, and many in the industry no longer consider it a PCI replacement. Intel withdrew from the market, but Mellanox hopes to make sure the void is filled.

Among the skeptics is Mary McDowell, formerly head of Compaq's ProLiant server business and now leading that group at HP. She believes the prevailing TCP/IP networking used in Ethernet and the Internet will continue its dominance, even in the controlled "data center" environments where customers run dozens of networked computers.

It's a natural path to extend TCP/IP networks, and customers "are not going to invest in a whole new infrastructure around InfiniBand," she said.

IBM, however, the largest server maker, differs. It's planning InfiniBand connections as a core element of its plan to converge several high-end server designs. Sun Microsystems and Dell also are fans.