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Super interconnect maker Quadrics going titsup

The InfiniBand blues

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Last week, El Reg told you that one of the co-founders of British supercomputer switch interconnect maker Quadrics, Duncan Roweth, had taken a job at rival Cray. The situation at Quadrics is apparently more dire than that. The company is closing its doors.

According to one anonymous source who contacted us in the wake of that story, times have been tough for Quadrics as InfiniBand and 10 Gigabit Ethernet alternatives have caught on. It suffered a further blow when Quadrics interconnects were not chosen for the 200 teraflops Juropa supercomputer being built by Bull at Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany. (A prototype IBM blade cluster for the Juropa project did use Quadrics interconnects, by the way).

This source says that Roweth has been shopping Quadrics around to Hewlett-Packard, Bull, Cray, and Silicon Graphics since last fall, and all of them apparently were not interested in acquiring the company for its QSNet-III variant on 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches. Many of the key engineers at Quadrics had subsequently left to go work for startups, the source said, and he expected Quadrics to be shut down by the end of June.

Another source said that Finmeccanica UK, Quadrics' parent company, was going through the legal consultation process of making people redundant and that this process would be wrapped up by the end of May. He1 added that Roweth deserved credit for keeping Quadrics alive for as long as he did, given the harsh economic environment.

In both cases, the sources say that key employees were being moved to another Finmeccanica division to provide ongoing support for the QSNet switches and related technologies used in production supercomputers.

Another source confirmed that all staff at Quadrics had been put on notice of redundancy and were undergoing consultation and that support for existing customers had been moved and development on the QSNet-III products had been halted.

Richard Coltart, a spokesperson at Finmeccanica UK, said that the 35 employees at Quadrics were in the process of consultation right now, with Finmeccanica UK attempting to get them jobs within the company's other units. Thus far, four key employees who are responsible for supporting Quadrics' customer base have been moved to its Vega Consulting Services unit, which does consulting for the Ministry of Defense.

Coltart did not confirm that Roweth had shopped Quadrics around to the parties named above, but did say that efforts had been made to find a buyer and that they were unsuccessful. He said that Quadrics had been making losses for the past three years and that regrettably the company was no longer sustainable. Given the state of the economy and the pressure on Quadrics from InfiniBand and 10 Gigabit Ethernet alternatives for supercomputing interconnects, this is understandable.

The story might have been different if Quadrics had embraced 10 Gigabit Ethernet products earlier, but perhaps not. At any rate, development on the QSNet-III 10 GE switches has been stopped. Coltart said that the employee consultations should be done next week and that Quadrics will close its doors sometime in June. ®

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