28 May 2002 Semiconductor giant Intel has pulled out of the emerging market for InfiniBand chips, causing concerns over the future of the new technology.
The InfiniBand data connection standard was created in October 2000 by the merger of two competing designs: Future I/O, developed by Compaq, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard; and Next Generation I/O, developed by Intel, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems.
InfiniBand, which can transmit data at speeds of up to six gigabytes per second is supposed to supplant the current standard PCI connection that runs at 133 megahertz. However, now that Intel has decided not to pursue the technology, its future as the next connectivity standard is less than certain.
Intel’s decision to scrap its InfiniBand development efforts is due not only to the current economic climate, but also to the fact that Intel’s 2.5 gigabit per second InfiniBand chips were overtaken by faster versions from other specialist InfiniBand chip vendors, says Jonathan Eunice, an analyst with Illuminata.
Intel says it will still support the InfiniBand standard by providing adapters to connect its chips to other third-party InfiniBand hardware.
The InfiniBand market is currently host to a number of start-ups, several of which have been funded by Intel. Companies include, Banderacom, Crossroads Systems, Infinicon, Lane15 Software, Mellanox Technologies and Vieo. If the market heats up, Intel is likely to acquire one of those specialist manufacturers.
It is these companies that Intel claims will sustain the emerging InfiniBand market. However, confidence in the market, which is still very much in its infancy, will be affected by the news. According to Vernon Turner, an analyst at IDC, InfiniBand products are only now moving from early design and testing to acceptance and InfiniBand vendors cannot expect to generate significant sales until at least the end of 2002.
To InfiniBand and beyond (May 2002)
Can InfiniBand clear the communications bottleneck in data centres?