Intel Developer Forum: Heavy On The Technology, Light On The Products

For Intel, the conference was an opportunity to unveil its first Xeon processors featuring hyper-threading technology in 2.2GHz, 2.0GHz and 1.8GHz speeds for two-way servers. The new processors are now available. The company also unveiled a new family of network processors, along with a network storage processor, based on its XScale technology. XScale is Intel's architecture for increasing the performance of rack-mounted equipment while cutting power consumption.

One technology pushed hard at the show was InfiniBand, an architecture designed to offer high performance connectivity between servers, as well as storage and networking devices.

Officials of the InfiniBand Trade Association (IBTA) said the organization will hold a series of IT road shows targeted at helping data-center managers, CIOs and other IT professionals prepare for InfiniBand solutions. The road shows are scheduled to be held in Boston, New York and Washington next quarter. The IBTA is made up of over 190 companies.

Several InfiniBand interoperability demonstrations were held at the forum. A demonstration by 26 developers featured storage, networking, and clustering traffic over a single InfiniBand fabric connected to Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks. Others included a DB2 database clustering demonstration over InfiniBand, and data mining and proactive failover protection of an Oracle 9iRAC database cluster with native InfiniBand storage solutions.

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RedSwitch, Milpitas, Calif., demonstrated an eight-port, 4X InfiniBand switch based on its HDMP-2840 chip. The company also showed a recently announced product development kit aimed at helping vendors develop InfiniBand switches with 160 Gbps wire speed bandwidth.

Lane15 Software, Austin, Texas, demonstrated Lane15 Application Enabler and Lane15 Fabric Manager software applications with a new fail-over feature. The Enabler software allows applications to run over a heterogeneous InfiniBand subnet to improve performance, while the Manager software provides high availability and continuous InfiniBand subnet operation, company executives said.

IBM demonstrated how existing hardware and software work with InfiniBand products from other vendors. In one case, the company showed its own InfiniBlue 4x Target Channel Adapter working with Lane15 InfiniBand fabric. IBM also qualified 10-Gbps Host Channel Adapter modules from San Diego-based JNI for use as part of InfiniBand server clusters for DB2 database environments.

Prisa Networks, a San Diego-based developer of SAN management software, demonstrated its VisualSAN suite of InfiniBand network management products. The software suite offers service-level and configuration management for both heterogeneous InfiniBand and Fibre Channel networks, company executives said.

InfiniCon Systems, a King of Prussia, Pa.-based developer of shared I/O solutions, demonstrated the industry's first shared I/O systems for InfiniBand-enabled servers, company executives said. The shared I/O approach combines Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand fabric resources into a common shared pool to allow multiple servers to share them.

Banderacom, Austin, Texas, showed new product development kits supporting 1X optical and 4X copper InfiniBand connections for its IBandit-TCA (target channel adapter). The 4X copper-based kit allows data transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps, company executives said. The new kits are expected to be available in March.

A number of storage companies used the Intel Developer Forum to unveil the formation of a new organization, the Serial ATA II Working Group, aimed at developing Serial ATA II specifications. Serial ATA II is a performance enhancement to the Serial ATA 1.0 technology which is just now starting to gain market traction.

The organization is lead by Dell, Intel, Maxtor and Seagate, and includes Adaptec, EMC, Eurologic, Fujitsu, IBM, Infineon Technologies North America, LSI Logic, Marvell, Molex, NEC, Promise, QLogic, Sierra Logic, Silicon Image and Western Digital.

Organization officials said they expect the Serial ATA II specifications to be rolled out in two phases. Server and networked storage features are slated to be defined late this year, with products hitting the market next year, while a faster signaling rate is expected to be defined late next year.

Several vendors at the show unveiled Serial ATA 1.0 products, including ASICs for Serial ATA controller and PCI RAID cards from Adaptec, and Serial ATA hard drives from Maxtor and Seagate.

Silicon Image, Sunnyvale, Calif., debuted three products in its new SATALink family of end-to-end Serial ATA solutions, including the SiI 3112 dual-channel 1.5 Gbps PCI-to-Serial ATA host controller, the SiI 3611 Serial ATA-to-Parallel ATA bridge chip, and the SiI 3610 Parallel ATA-to-Serial ATA bridge chip.