AMD and SeaMicro partnering to develop a processor agnostic HPC interconnect

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2012 - 10:21 AM |
Tagged: amd, seamicro, interconnect, purchase, HPC, 3d torus, freedom

In the beginning of March it was announced that AMD would be spending $334 million to purchase SeaMicro, a company who holds the patents on the 3D torus interconnect for High Powered Computing and servers.  This interconnect utilizes PCIe lanes to connect large amounts of processors together to create what was commonly referred to as a supercomputer and is now more likely to be labelled an HPC machine.  SeaMicro's current SM1000 chassis can hold 64 processor cards, each of which have a processor socket, chipset and memory slots which makes the entire design beautifully modular. 

One of the more interesting features of the Freedom systems design is that it can currently utilize either Atom or Xeon chips on those processor cards.  With AMD now in the mix you can expect to see compatibility with Opteron chips in the very near future.  That will give AMD a chance to grab market share from Intel in the HPC market segment.   The Opteron series may not be as powerful as the current Xeons but they do cost noticeably less which makes them very attractive for customers who cannot afford 64 Xeons but need more power than an Atom can provide.

The competition is not just about price however; with Intel's recent purchase of QLogic and the InfiniBand interconnect technology, AMD needs to ensure they can also provide a backbone which is comparable in speed.  The current Freedom interconnect has 1.28Tb/sec of aggregate bandwidth on a 3D torus, and supports up to sixteen 10-Gigabit Ethernet links or 64 Gigabit links, which is in the same ballpark as a 64 channel InfiniBand based system.  The true speed will actually depend on which processors AMD plans to put into these systems, but as Michael Detwiler told The Register, that will depend on what customers actually want and not on what AMD thinks will be best.

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"As last week was winding down, Advanced Micro Devices took control of upstart server maker SeaMicro, and guess what? AMD is still not getting into the box building business, even if it does support SeaMicro's customers for the foreseeable future out of necessity.

Further: Even if AMD doesn't have aspirations to build boxes, the company may be poised to shake up the server racket as a component supplier. Perhaps not as dramatically as it did with the launch of the Opteron chips nearly a decade ago, but then again, maybe as much or more - depending on how AMD plays it and Intel and other server processor makers react."

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Source: The Register

SeaMicro spurns Atom and cleaves to AMD

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2012 - 11:09 AM |
Tagged: amd, seamicro, interconnect, purchase, HPC

There is more movement in the low power server market as AMD purchased SeaMicro for $334 million, an investment that may help them keep their share of the server market.  You might have thought that a company that arrived on the scene with a server based on 512 single core Atoms would either stick with Intel or even consider ARM but instead it was AMD which grabbed them.   It is an important move for AMD to retain competitiveness against Intel considering Intel's purchase of QLogic and its InfiniBand interconnect technology which could lead to entirely new server architecture.  Using SeaMicro's experience of connecting a large amount of individually weak processors into a powerful server AMD will be able to develop the SoC business that they have been pursuing for quite a while now.   Check out the full story at The Inquirer.

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"AMD's new CEO Rory Read was fired up about executing better in the server racket at the company's analyst day earlier this month and has wasted little time in stirring things up with the acquisition of low-power server start-up SeaMicro for $334m."

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Source: The Register

Intel is thinking even bigger and likely leveraging their McAfee assets

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2012 - 10:24 AM |
Tagged: Intel, QLogic, purchase, Infiniband, HPC

Intel blew tiny $125 million piece of their record breaking quarterly income to purchase QLogic's InfiniBand business, which gives them access to a networking technology significantly faster than Ethernet.  InfiniBand is what is referred to as a switched fabric technology which allows multiple switches to connect to multiple hosts or data stores as opposed to the more point to point single broadcast which current ethernet based networks use.

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That may look familiar to some, but not as a network technology; it matches the communications architecture behind PCIe and SATA.  As we have seen, the speed difference between parallel connections and serial is quite impressive and InfiniBand's fastest implementation is currently capable of transferring 25 Gbit/s per lane.  That is significantly faster than the 1Gbit/s per lane PCIe 3.0 can provide which is why some current implementations of InfiniBand are used in High Performance Computing (HPC) applications.  InfiniBand also offers incredibly low latency of between 100 to 200 nanoseconds, depending on the implementation.

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Getting a hold of this interconnect technology gives Intel a huge boost in their capabilities of creating high performance networking technologies.  They have been looking for a way to grow in that area and push out Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) manufactures from the market, replacing those chips with low power Xeons or future Intel chips.  This would open up an entirely new market for Intel, who could see their already impressive growth increase significantly.  Intel could become even more attractive to customers by taking advantage of the benefits of owning McAfee by placing virus/malware protection directly onto their switches.   We have already seen evidence of one project along these lines at IDF 2011 when they announced the DeepSAFE project which is software that operates below the OS level, providing what they refer to as "hardware-assisted" security.  With that OS-agnostic approach it would be possible to run the security software on a network switch or on an HPC interconnect. That could give Intel not only the fastest interconnect technology but also the most secure.

When discussing this with The Inquirer, Intel's representative Kirk Skaugen stated that this purchase will help Intel design and produce an exaflop level supercomputer by 2018.  It is unlikely that this is Intel's only goal, with the purchase of Fulcrum Microsystems this summer, a company which designs ASICs for Ethernet switches and routers that run at 10Gbit and 40Gbit, they are well on their way to designing network switches for HPC applications.  The Register ponders what this could mean for companies which have used InfiniBand technology in their products.  Will they be snatched up by a networking company like Cisco, could AMD pick them up and provide competition in this industry or will they consider offering themselves to Intel the best alternative?  We will be keeping an eye on this as it will not only develop into the next generation of networking technology but could also drive the successor to PCIe.

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"The high-performance networking market just got a whole lot more interesting, with Intel shelling out $125m to acquire the InfiniBand switch and adapter product lines from upstart QLogic.

Intel has made no secret that it wants to bolster its Data Center and Connected Systems business by getting network equipment providers to use Xeon processors inside of their networking gear – that Intel division posted $10.1bn in revenues in 2011, and the company wants to break $20bn in the next five years."

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Source: The Register

SandForce jumps into bed with LSI, not OCZ

Subject: Storage | October 27, 2011 - 11:57 AM |
Tagged: LSI, sandforce, merger, purchase

LSI, known for their high quality RAID cards here at PC Perspective have just agreed to purchase our favourite designer of  SSD controllers, namely Sandforce.  The deal is for $322 million in cash, with another $48 million of unvested stock options and restricted shares also being picked up.  This deal makes an interesting pair of bedfellows, with Sandforce being well known by consumers but making few inroads into the server room or other corporate markets.  LSI is the opposite, with very few consumers running out and picking up a $700 SAS RAID controller while in the corporate environment they are a common purchase. 

The two markets are very different; consumers want both speed and affordability in a drive and are quite willing to sacrifice a little reliability to that end.  Corporate usage places reliability first, there is no point having incredibly fast storage medium if it is occasionally unreachable and so are willing to pay a high price for that reliability.  This purchase seems to be indicating that SandForce feels that there is a market for their controller in the corporate world, if they can overcome the reliability and MTBF of their SSD drives.  LSI can provide experience with that in spades, their testing methodology is capable of detecting and pinpointing flaws that a consumer would never notice but which a heavily loaded server might.  This might just see SandForce arrive as a controller in a server room near you.  Keep your eyes peeled for more information from Allyn.

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MILPITAS, Calif., October 26, 2011 – LSI Corporation (NYSE: LSI) today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire SandForce, Inc., the leading provider of flash storage processors for enterprise and client flash solutions and solid state drives (SSDs). Under the agreement, LSI will pay approximately $322 million in cash, net of cash assumed, and assume approximately $48 million of unvested stock options and restricted shares held by SandForce employees.
 
SandForce’s award-winning products include flash storage processors at the heart of PCIe flash adapters and SSDs. Flash storage processors provide the intelligence required to deliver the performance and low-latency benefits of flash storage in enterprise and client applications. With market-proven, differentiated DuraClass™ technology, SandForce flash storage processors improve the reliability, endurance and power efficiency of flash-based storage solutions.
 
The acquisition greatly enhances LSI's competitive position in the fast-growing server and storage PCIe flash adapter market, where the WarpDrive™ family of products from LSI already uses SandForce flash storage processors. The complementary combination of LSI’s custom capability and SandForce’s standard product offering propels LSI into an industry-leading position in the rapidly growing, high-volume flash storage processor market space for ultrabook, notebook and enterprise SSD and flash solutions.
 
“Flash-based solutions are critical for accelerating application performance in servers, storage and client devices,” said Abhi Talwalkar, LSI president and chief executive officer. “Adding SandForce’s technology to LSI’s broad storage portfolio is consistent with our mission to accelerate storage and networking. The acquisition represents a significant, rapidly growing market opportunity for LSI over the next several years.”
 
Michael Raam, SandForce president and CEO, said, “The combination of SandForce and LSI allows us to deliver differentiated solutions in the PCIe flash adapter segment by tightly integrating flash memory and management. In addition, leveraging our flash storage processors with LSI’s comprehensive IP portfolio and leading-edge silicon design platforms will lead to innovative solutions.”
 
The transaction is expected to close early in the first quarter of 2012 subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Upon closing, the SandForce team will become part of LSI’s newly formed Flash Components Division, with Raam as general manager.

Source: LSI

"I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers"

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2011 - 10:26 AM |
Tagged: purchase, motorola, google

The tech world is always going through changes; much like life in a pond, the small things either grow into big things or something big eats them.  Motorola was once a big fish, but went through some lean times, losing about $4 billion from 2007 to 2009. They started off more than 50 years ago, designing chips for radios and TVs and even providing communication chips to NASA for many missions including the first moon landing.  From there they sold off the TV portion to a little known company called Panasonic, so that they could focus on their communications chips and to start dabbling in what became the 6800 and 68000 series of chips.  Those chips powered Amigas, the original Apple MacIntoshes; even the joint IBM and Apple PowerPC chips were Motorola and that architecture is still used today.

As of today that once big fish is now a part of Google, as they purchased it at a premium of 63% above market value.  That is certainly a decent deal for stockholders and may well be a great deal for Motorola employees as well as they move to a strictly Android based development regime. That may lead to some interesting times in the future, as Google claims that Android will remain open and run on any architecture.  However, now that they own a complete closed development chain, in the form of Motorola's patents and hardware, the open philosophy may run counter to the development of hardware.  John McCarthy of Forrester Blogs, as well as many others are following this story; though it will be quite a while before we know the full repercussions of the purchase.

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"Earlier this morning, Google announced its intention to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 Billion in cash or $40/share. There are three broad justifications for the deal:

  • Access to the Motorola patent portfolio which it could then license to partners like HTC and Samsung to protect against the long arm of Apple's lawyers.
  • An integrated hardware/software play to compete with Apple. The problem with this logic is that the deal does not address the fragmentation on the Android platform which is the bigger issue.
  • The set-top business to bolster its lagging Google TV offering."

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Your company lost $7 million last year? Can we buy it for $8.5 billion? Microsoft buys Skype.

Subject: General Tech | May 10, 2011 - 09:51 AM |
Tagged: ballmer, microsoft, boomtown, skype, purchase, billion

The rumour mill really dropped the ball on this one, as just a few hours ago it was Facebook that everyone was muttering would one day buy Skype.  Turns out that in just a few hours the new rumour that Microsoft was going to buy Skype for $7 billion became a reality at an $8.5 billion price tag. 

Skype lost $7 million dollars last year, though that number seems rather small compared to their overall balance sheet to date which puts them $686 million in the hole.  As All Things Digital is quick to point out, that is slightly less than what Microsoft Online Services Division lost last Quarter, proving all things are relative even at very high amounts of dollars.

On the plus side, Microsoft gets its hands on Skype's 763 million registered users, about twice as many as there are MSN users and significantly more that there are XBox Live users.  Toss in the TechNet people and you still have nowhere near the user pool that Skype brings.  That huge increase in the number of people Microsoft can reach possibly gives them the ability to recoup the money they spent to buy them.  Consider that 8 million users pay actual money for their Skype account, which Wired considers as at least a hint of Microsoft's strategy.

Most PC users who already use Windows, such as those at Ars Technica, are scratching their heads over the purchase while Linux users at Slashdot are very concerned about continuing support for the Skype Linux Client.

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"The Wall Street Journal reported earlier tonight that Microsoft–in what would be its most aggressive acquisition in the digital space–was zeroing in on buying Skype for $8.5 billion all in with an assumption of the Luxembourg-based company’s debt.

Sources told BoomTown tonight that the deal for the online telephony and video communications giant is actually done and will be announced early tomorrow morning."

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