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IBM signs on InfiniBand switchmaker

Big Blue signs a multiyear deal to sell switches and incorporate technology from a start-up whose products link computing equipment with high-speed InfiniBand connections.

IBM has signed a multiyear deal to sell switches and incorporate technology from Topspin Communications, a start-up whose products link computing equipment with high-speed InfiniBand connections.

Under the five-year deal announced Tuesday, Big Blue will sell the switches in combination with its servers and storage systems. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


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InfiniBand connections can carry data traffic over copper wires at a rate of 10 gigabits per second--faster than today's contenders Ethernet or Fibre Channel--with 30gbps speeds expected later this year. The technology also features low delays between when the information is sent and when it's received.

"The IBM announcements is the both the broadest and deepest announcement we've made to date," said Stu Aaron, Topspin's vice president of marketing and business development. In addition to IBM selling Topspin products, the companies will jointly develop new products, and IBM will integrate Topspin hardware and software into its own products, Aaron said.

Topspin, based in Mountain View, Calif., makes InfiniBand switches as well as adapters so computers can connect to switches. Topspin raised $20 million in November in its most recent funding round and already has a reseller relationship with IBM rival Sun Microsystems.

IBM signed the deal--its first InfiniBand reseller relationship--because Topspin's products are well adapted to the company's on-demand vision, said Tom Bradicich, chief technology officer of the company's xSeries Intel server unit.

IBM's on-demand program, one of several competing utility computing plans percolating out of the computing industry, is designed to let networks of computing systems automatically shift resources to where demand is greatest according to preset rules. Topspin's technology helps establish easily changed "virtual" connections rather than inflexible hard-wired connections.

However, it's neither inexpensive nor widely used. Topspin, along with other InfiniBand gear makers such as Voltaire and Infinicon, hope to change that.

Although InfiniBand backers failed in their initial mission to use InfiniBand as a replacement for the PCI technology ubiquitously used to plug devices such as network adapters into computers, they have succeeded in spreading the technology to supercomputers made of computer clusters.

In the future, InfiniBand advocates expect the technology to create clusters for more mainstream use: business databases that are less expensive to buy than today's high-end multiprocessor servers.