Sun, Topspin Ink InfiniBand Deal

The duo will jointly develop and license InfiniBand technology.

Sun Microsystems Inc. and Topspin Communications Inc. will jointly develop and license InfiniBand technology, according to an agreement announced by the two companies Friday.

Sun will begin rolling out InfiniBand-ready server and storage hardware in 2004, according to John Davis, director of volume systems products at the Santa Clara, Calif., company. Sun will leverage Topspins technology in creating InfiniBand interfaces to Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet devices within the data center, Davis said.

"In applications like databases, application servers, Java development, [customer relationship management,] [enterprise resource planning], we will significantly increase performance in the data center [with InfiniBand] and reduce the total cost of ownership in those environments," he said.

Topspin, of Mountain View, Calif., in November unveiled its first product, its Topspin 360 Switched Computing System, designed to link data center resources via InfiniBand. In January, Topspin announced the Topspin 90 Switched Computing System, which offers 12 InfiniBand ports and can be expanded by four more InfiniBand ports, two Fibre Channel ports or four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Stu Aaron, vice president of marketing and business development at Topspin, said the company will work to take the upper layer protocols related to InfiniBand that are housed in host channel adapters and bring them into Suns proprietary Solaris operating environment.

Sun officials said that InfiniBand—a channel-based, switched fabric architecture—is the most cost-effective high-speed interconnect technology on the market. It was among the first to reach the 10G-bps speed mark.

In December, Sun joined with IBM and Dell Computer Corp. in throwing their support behind InfiniBand, which at one point was being touted as replacing other interconnect technologies, such as PCI on the desktop. However, other technologies have popped up—from PCI-X, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel and iSCSI—and now InfiniBand, with its low-latency and high bandwidth, is being viewed as a complementary technology that initially will take hold in clustering and high-performance computing environments.

However, Aaron, of Topspin, said the Sun agreement will help InfiniBand move beyond being a niche standard because it involves entire hardware and software lines at Sun.

"This helps InfiniBand across the board," he said.

Over the past couple of years, smaller startup companies—like Topspin—have been developing InfiniBand products. But though they have been members of the InfiniBand Trade Association, it wasnt until late December that Sun and the other OEMs took their most high-profile stand behind the technology. Industry observers said InfiniBand—which had taken a public-relations blow earlier in 2002 when key players Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. pulled back on InfiniBand development plans—would not take off until top-tier players fully, and publicly, embraced it.

However, Hewlett-Packard Co. held back some on its support of InfiniBand, saying in December that it was taking a more cautious approach to the standard.

Other key steps in the growth of InfiniBand over the past year include the development of 4x—or 10GB—silicon and of software for such jobs as fabric management to support InfiniBand networks.

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