Intel Buys NetEffect in Bet on InfiniBand Rival

On the heels of reporting a murky outlook ahead for several areas of its business, chip giant Intel is laying out a bit of cash to give itself a better hand in networking.

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) said it purchased the assets of network connectivity solutions company NetEffect for $8 million, with an eye to further enhance its efforts in the Ethernet networking space.

Intel has been pushing Ethernet to become the dominant interconnect technology for all types of network traffic. It’s also throwing its weight behind Fibre Channel over Ethernet technology in Linux through an open source effort.

The new purchase of NetEffect, which had filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, now could enable Intel to promote Ethernet in another arena: high-performance computing, a category that industry watchers expect to continue growing sharply in coming years.

NetEffect’s products incorporate Internet Wide Area RDMA Protocol (iWARP), an Ethernet alternative to InfiniBand — a switched fabric communications link used in high-performance computing — and the company’s products include 1-gigabit and 10-gigabit Ethernet (GbE) adapters for servers and blade configurations. According to NetEffect, its 10 GbE adapters outperform InfiniBand.

“The combination of Intel and NetEffect technology will allow Intel to address our customers’ most important 10 GbE needs, including server virtualization, convergence of network and storage traffic, and server compute clusters,” said Tom Swinford, general manager of Intel’s LAN Access Division.

“NetEffect’s role as a data communications solution provider and the company’s technology will enhance Intel’s current Ethernet efforts,” he added.

Intel’s existing 10 GbE server adapters are designed for servers based on multi-core processors and optimized for virtualization, and NetEffect’s network interface cards will complement these, Intel said.

To date, InfiniBand has been seen as the major beneficiary of expected growth in high-end computing.

Industry researcher IDC has predicted that the need for increased bandwidth and capacity — particularly in high-performance computing and scaled-out database environments — will drive adoption of InfiniBand technology through 2011.

Oracle’s recently unveiled HP Oracle Exadata Programmable Storage Server, for example, uses two InfiniBand pipes.

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