Intel fuels exascale plan with QLogic InfiniBand buy

Intel has purchased the InfiniBand business of networking specialist QLogic for $125m, to help it develop the technologies needed to build an computer capable of 1,000 petaflops by 2018
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Intel has bought QLogic's InfiniBand product line, gaining key networking technology it needs to meet its goal of building an exascale computer by 2018.

Kirk Skaugen Intel

Intel's Kirk Skaugen, pictured in June, has announced the purchase of QLogic's InfiniBand product line. Photo credit: Jack Clark

The purchase, announced on Monday, gives Intel a range of InfiniBand switches and adapters suited to high-performance computing (HPC), supercomputers and dense datacentres. These technologies are crucial to Intel's plan to develop an exascale supercomputer hundreds of times faster and 300 times more power-thrifty than the current leading system within a decade.

"The technology and expertise from QLogic [help] provide the scalable system fabric needed to execute on this [exascale] vision," Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's Data Center and Connected System Group, said in a statement.

"Adding QLogic's InfiniBand product line to our networking portfolio will bring increased options... to our datacentre customers," he said.

InfiniBand is a high-speed communications protocol primarily used in supercomputers, though Oracle has placed it at the heart of its ultra-dense engineered systems as well. It is the second most popular interconnect type for all supercomputers tracked by the Top500 list, after Gigabit Ethernet, but holds the greatest share on a performance basis.

Exascacle plan

Networking is one of the five key areas where technological development is needed for Intel to build an exascale computer, which will be capable of 1,000 petaflops (one exaflop). The others are memory, power efficiency, parallel programming and processor architectures. Intel has already made some headway in the last area, with its 50-core many-integrated core (MIC) Knights Corner architecture.

In June, Intel said it hopes its exascale push will result not only in top-tier HPC systems, but also in products for businesses and non-commercial agencies. "We're not building MIC for 10 computers, we're not building it for 100 computers," Skaugen told ZDNet UK at the time.

The QLogic technology deal follows Intel's acquisition of high-speed networking chip specialist Fulcrum Microsystems in July. QLogic has original equipment manufacturing partnerships with major technology companies including Cisco, HP, Dell, EMC, Hitachi, Oracle, NetApp, IBM and Huawei Symantec.

While Intel and QLogic did not reveal the terms of the deal, the chip specialist paid $125m in cash for the InfiniBand business, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The purchase is expected to close by April, and a "significant number" of QLogic employees with InfiniBand experience will transfer from the Los Angeles-area company to Intel.

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