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HyperTransport Broadens Its HPC Scope

A technology group working on faster data transfer between devices announced a new specification targeted at improving high-performance computing systems.

The HyperTransport Technology Consortium said today that it has approved HTX, the industry's first HyperTransport technology expansion connector spec.

The group said the new EATX motherboard/daughtercard guideline defines an interface and form factor specification for an EATX motherboard connector, as well as HyperTransport add-in cards.

The EATX motherboard is a popular architecture used in high-performance workstations, servers and embedded and storage systems. The group is hoping to advance the new HTX slot standard in the growing number of high-performance computing (HPC) systems.

"It gives system and subsystem manufacturers a standard way to attach HyperTransport-enabled subsystems to HyperTransport-enabled motherboards," Brian Holden, chairperson of the HyperTransport Consortium Technical Working Group said in a statement. "The high-throughput, low-latency HyperTransport link is an integral part of many 64-bit motherboards and a key inter-processor link for multiprocessor systems."

HyperTransport is gaining in both technical improvements and industry adoption. The consortium and analysts at IDC predict HyperTransport port shipments will grow from more than 30 million ports in 2003 to more than 200 million ports in 2006. The technology already powers such devices as Microsoft's Xbox, Apple's Power Mac G5, Cisco's high-end routers, IBM's and Sun Microsystems's servers, notebooks, Tablet PCs based on Transmeta's Efficeon-processor, and AMD's Athlon64- and Opteron-based PCs, servers and supercomputers.

The technology is sharply contrasted with Intel's traditional "Northbridge/Southbridge" designs.

The new specification defines an 8- or 16-bit HyperTransport interface with an up to 1.6 gigatransfer/second data rate (800 MHz clock rate) and includes all of the defined HyperTransport control signals, such as a synchronous reference clock. The connector signals include both 12-volt and 3.3-volt power signals and an SMBus interface (3.3V). It optionally supports JTAG and allows for the use of four-layer motherboards and daughtercards with conventional PCB technology.

The group said the new HTX specification gets the best results with the standard Extended ATX (12" x 13") motherboard form factor. The daughtercard mechanical envelope is also compatible with standard PCI cards to fit in existing chassis designs. The HTX components are designed to be used in both riser-based (1U) and pedestal, rack-mount (3U and greater) and proprietary systems.

The consortium said the placement of the connectors is designed to exclude the possibility of accidentally inserting cards built to other known interface specifications. And finally, the specification defines the mechanical locations of the connectors, pinouts, signaling conventions, mechanical specifications for the 1U riser card and the HyperTransport daughtercard, as well as layout rules for motherboard, riser, and daughtercard.