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Issue of January 2003 
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New hope for InfiniBand

Top server vendors like IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Dell Computer have reaffirmed their support for InfiniBand—a specification for the transmission of data between (server) processors and I/O devices. HP however, is linking its InfiniBand adoption on widespread customer interest.

In the first quarter of 2003, IBM will begin installing InfiniBand-connected groups of computers for housing databases and performing high-speed calculations. Dell has a similar approach, while Sun is building InfiniBand into its entire product line. The technology is expected to significantly improve performance for next-generation data center applications.

InfiniBand, a technology that can transfer data at 10 Gbps with minimal delays, was once poised to sweep the industry with backing from IBM, HP, Compaq Computer, Dell, Sun, Intel, and Microsoft. In recent months however, Intel and Microsoft distanced themselves from this I/O specification. Analysts no longer expect InfiniBand to replace the universally used PCI data pathway, but rather to be used as a fabric to connect servers and storage systems that reside within data centers. One use will be to connect low-end systems together so they can share the tedious computing chore of storing databases of information. Another is consolidating low-end servers into a supercomputer.

Not all are so bullish though. HP, one of the inventors of InfiniBand, was conspicuously absent from the joint announcement. Many of the InfiniBand applications these companies are contemplating don't require major changes. InfiniBand support can be added by plugging a card into a server's PCI slot.

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