Intel Buys QLogic Infiniband, What Now?

Posted on January 24, 2012 By Henry Newman

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I am sure most of you have seen the news that Intel intends to purchase QLogic's InfiniBand (IB) business. For those of you that do not know, IB has been around for over 10 years and is an interconnect for communications and storage used in HPC and a few other environments, such as Oracle RAC. One of the major advantages of IB over Ethernet is low latency. The other big advantage is bandwidth.

While Ethernet is getting just 40 Gb/sec out, IB is already at 56 Gbit/sec. So why would Intel buy QLogic's business, given that Mellanox will be the only IB vendor left? There are a few potential reasons, such as Intel wants access to the router technology as it has a plan for its own interconnect, or maybe Intel wants to prop up the market with this technology.

Whatever the reason, my opinion is this spells the beginning of the end of IB given Intel's track record. The latest example: Intel touted that it would enter the SSD market about three or four years ago. The X-25 line of SSDs was a flop, and do not get me started on all of the issues. Intel is very, very good at its core business, but time and time again throughout Intel's history, products outside of its core business have not been well conceived. If Intel follows its historical course, that will leave only one IB vendor, and that means IB will be dead as an interconnect.

Whether you view this as a good thing or bad thing depends on your point of view. IB definitely helped push some technology issues to reduce latency in Ethernet. Some could argue it pushed Ethernet to improve performance. Whether this would have happened anyway is up for debate, but I think it likely would have. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I think what will happen is most things will not change.


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