SANTA CLARA, Calif. (ChipWire)-- Chip-set manufacturer Reliance Computer Corp. here has changed its name to ServerWorks Corp., opening its doors and some of its roadmap to public view.
The company has been a silent partner to many server and workstation makers -- including Dell
Computer, Compaq Computer and Intergraph Computer Systems -- since it was founded in 1994 by Raju Vegesna, president and CEO. Now, in preparation for a planned public offering later this year, ServerWorks tipped its hand on some of its plans.
Analysts regard the company highly for its relationship with Intel Corp., and ServerWorks is involved in a broad, 10-year bus-licensing agreement with Intel that expires in 2008. Theoretically, however, the company's products compete with Intel's 450NX and Intel 840 high-end chipsets.
"Keep in mind that our main competitor is Intel," said Kimball Brown, a former analyst for market research firm Dataquest's server division and now ServerWorks' vice president of business development. "But our best customer is Intel, too, and we're helping them sell lots of CPUs." For example, Brown expects to design and sample a board featuring Intel's next-generation processor, Willamette, in April to a few select customers.
Still, ServerWorks will not be signing on to support Intel's first 64-bit chip, Merced, which Brown called "a development platform." Instead, the company will wait for McKinley, the second-generation 64-bit part. "We have limited resources. We can't do everything," with only 85 employees, added David Pulling, executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Like others vendors in the server space, ServerWorks believes that product design will be driven by I/O capability, not processor power. ServerWorks currently sells the four-chip ServerSet III chipset, available in several combinations to suit the emerging segments in the enterprise class. For low- and mid-range applications, a north bridge and south bridge are used; ServerWorks has also designed a three-chip set for the highest-performance OEM products.
For basic, two-way products, ServerWorks designed a low-end version of the north bridge, dubbed ServerSet III LE. It contains two external PCI interfaces: one to a 66-MHz/64-bit PCI bus; and the second to a standard 32-bit, 33-MHz PCI interface which links up to the south bridge. The LE north bridge can address up to 4 gigabytes of PC133 SDRAM; however, OEMs can also pair two of the LE north bridges to create a platform for mid-range servers that doubles the addressable memory to 8 Gbytes.
For higher-end four-way systems, the company developed the ServerSet III HE north bridge, which connects via a 144-bit bus to 4 banks of interleaved PC133 SDRAM up to 16 Gbytes in capacity. The HE north bridge allows OEMs to eliminate "chipkill," the automatic disabling feature that shuts down defective DRAM chips to avoid data loss. The HE north bridge also gains access to two 64-bit, 66-MHz PCI buses via the company's third chip, an internally developed I/O processor that communicates with the north bridge at 1 gigabyte per second. A 4X Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) connection can also be turned on for workstation products.
The fourth chip disclosed by the company is a standard south bridge, with connections to the Universal Serial Bus, ATA storage interface, and other peripheral connections. ServerWorks still has not released individual prices for its chips, but will instead offer a single ServerSet III LE chipset for $85, a mid-range skew at $150, and the highest-end ServerSet HE chip set for $250.
With its roadmap in place, Brown said ServerWorks is targeting the highest-volume server segment -- the two- and four-way configurations that use Intel microprocessors. While at Dataquest, Brown forecasted about 3.75 million servers would be sold this year, with roughly 85% based on Intel chips. "We're definitely not eschewing the traditional market," he said. "That's what's paying the bills."
New markets include Web caches and so-called server appliances, which compete with routers and switches. Brown argued that the majority of server costs are made up of software licensing fees, and that the growing adoption rate of "freeware" enterprise software like Linux and SendMail will drive costs down over time. ServerWorks' Pulling even went so far as to state that "it's inevitable that Cisco's product line will be swamped by server appliances."
ServerWorks' roadmap calls for a PC200 double-data-rate SDRAM interface to be added in the ServerSet IV, due in 2001. The planned addressable memory is 64 Gbytes. The company has also
fully committed to the next-generation PCI-X interface, and hopes that will push I/O bandwidth up from 1.2 Gbytes/s in the ServerSet III to 5 Gbytes/s in the ServerSet IV.