Microsoft drops OS plans for InfiniBand

Microsoft drops OS plans for InfiniBand

Microsoft last week disclosed that it no longer plans to build an InfiniBand management capability into the upcoming Windows .Net Server operating system, dealing another blow to the new high-speed I/O architecture.

Instead, Microsoft is betting on Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel for blade server clustering and storage device connectivity within Windows .Net Server. That approach relies on existing IT infrastructures, which should help users contain costs, Microsoft said.

Valerie See, group manager of Microsoft's Windows Hardware Evangelism division, said IT managers are "gravitating toward evolutionary technology that allows them to use existing technology . . . vs. an expansion of capabilities or a wholesale replacement of an existing architecture."

Microsoft had planned to put native support for InfiniBand in Windows .Net Server, which is due to ship by year's end. But instead it became the second major IT vendor to back away from the technology in the past two months, following a decision by Intel Corp. to stop developing InfiniBand controller chips.

Dell Computer had been working with Microsoft and start-up InfiniBand vendors to use the high-speed I/O interconnect as the backbone for its upcoming PowerEdge "brick" servers, which will enable modular configuration and reconfiguration of rack-mounted servers.

Jimmy Pike, director of server architecture and technology at Dell, said InfiniBand is still the leading technology "for the problem we're trying to solve: creating a high-bandwidth, low-latency interconnect."

"There are other software avenues besides Microsoft," he added.

IDC said some us$300 million has been invested in dozens of InfiniBand start-ups thus far. But Microsoft's withdrawal will likely hurt the emerging market, some analysts said.

"That's the number one server platform on the planet, and when they back away, it has ramifications on the entire server community," said Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.

But observers said Microsoft's move doesn't signal a general deterioration of support for the technology. Indeed, both Intel and Microsoft have said they will work with third-party vendors to integrate InfiniBand into their products. But to use InfiniBand as the backbone I/O technology for clusters of systems based on Windows .Net Server, users will have to buy drivers from other vendors.

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