HyperTransport Speeds Data Transfer

Chip maker advanced Micro Devices Inc. got a big boost for its HyperTransport technology this month

Chip maker advanced Micro Devices Inc. got a big boost for its HyperTransport technology this month when more than 100 computer and communications companies pledged to support its adoption.

HyperTransport, formerly code-named Lightning Data Transport, is a new architecture designed to dramatically boost data transfer inside PCs as well as networking and communications devices.

The technology, which will begin appearing in systems late this year, enables manufacturers to integrate more processors into their systems by eliminating data transfer bottlenecks among components.

In addition, adoption of the technology may benefit data centers. Not only will it improve performance, AMD said, but HyperTransport is also capable of supporting up to 32 devices per channel and can accommodate components with different bus widths and speeds. HyperTransport can transfer data up to 6.4GB per second, a more than twentyfold increase over existing system interconnects that provide bandwidth up to 266MB per second.

Among the major players participating in the initiative are Broadcom Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and graphics-card maker Nvidia Corp. Their support was announced during the Platform Conference in Taipei, Taiwan.

AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., plans to use the technology to develop future multiprocessor PCs, workstations and servers. Currently, AMDs lack of multiprocessor-capable chip sets for its top-performing Athlon processor has limited its ability to compete in the server market, where such configurations are common.

HyperTransport, unveiled in 1999, is not the only architecture designed to accelerate data transfer. Among the most notable architectures emerging in the market are PCI-X and InfiniBand, which are supported by most major computer makers. Theyre designed to connect servers to servers or other peripherals.

However, HyperTransports proponents said the technology complements InfiniBand and PCI-X by focusing on chip-to-chip data transfer rather than system-to-system.

Yet AMDs technology will still face potential competition from other proprietary technologies from such companies as Intel Corp., ServerWorks Inc. (acquired last month by Broadcom), Via Technologies Inc., HotRail Inc. and Rambus Inc.

Its likely that several of the technologies will be able to coexist, with different designs securing holds in various niches, according to Linley Gwennap, an analyst at The Linley Group, in Mountain View, Calif.

"The issue is not whether the world is going to centralize on one high-speed serial link, but are you going to see a single standard emerging for a particular application?" Gwennap asked.