Intel Positions Arapahoe Against AMD's HyperTransport

Posted By Van Smith

Date: August 7, 2001

Unlike Arapahoe, AMD's HyperTransport will not be able to keep pace with emerging technology an Intel spokeswoman told Van's Hardware Journal today.  This follows a story we reported earlier today where AMD viewed the two technologies as complementary.


Arapahoe Described

"Arapahoe" is the code name for a technology more widely known as "3GIO" which itself stands for "Third-Generation-I/O."  Arapahoe will be tentatively formalized under the name "PCI 3.0."  Although being viewed by many as merely a PCI replacement, plans for this developing specification appear to be much broader. 

Intel spokeswoman Mary Ninow described Arapahoe to us as follows:

3GIO, code-named Arapahoe, like PCI-X, will be a general-purpose I/O interconnect. It will retain PCI SW [software] compatibility, and is designed to connect high-speed connections INSIDE a system. It is designed to provide chip-to-chip interconnect, I/O interconnect for adapter cards, and act as an I/O attach point to other interconnects like 1394b, USB2.0, InfiniBand and Ethernet, and graphics.

InfiniBand architecture is optimized for efficient sharing and communication between clusters of computer servers. Initial Arapahoe target bandwidth per pin speeds are expected to be 2.5 Gbps, or 12 times faster than current PCI-X speeds. Arapahoe will scale up to 10 Gbps and beyond in the future.

The description as an in-box chip-to-chip interconnect pits Arapahoe directly against AMD's HyperTransport.  Additionally, the high speed serialized interconnect from Intel's archrival has also been demonstrated as a clustering box-to-box connection technology which seemingly places it in competition with Intel's InfiniBand.


Intel claims HyperTransport can't keep pace with Arapahoe

When asked how Intel views the interaction between Arapahoe and HyperTransport, Ninow responded:

There are many technologies in the industry being developed to solve specific application needs -- HyperTransport being one of them. We see these technologies co-exisiting to serve specific needs in the short-term. However, these technologies are based on parallel technology, and as such will not be able to keep pace with increasing CPU and peripheral device speeds. Arapahoe will be a serial interconnect that will scale to the limits of copper and provide greater bandwidth, speed and scalability. It will be a long-term solution to meet the needs of emerging applications. The move to Arapahoe will be very similar to the ISA/PCI transition experienced in 1991.

Although Arapahoe appears to have per-pin bandwidth slightly greater than HyperTransport's, it is not clear yet what Arapahoe's aggregate throughput is expected to be.  The current HyperTransport specification can provide up to 16 GB/s of bandwidth and is expected to reach higher rates as the standard evolves.


HyperTransport is not just for PC's

Although Arapahoe appears to be technology focused on PC's, AMD is also pushing HyperTransport for workstation, server, embedded and networking solutions.  HyperTransport also enjoys a significant head start: AMD's technology is available now and is supported by a broad consortium while the Arapahoe specification is still being hammered out.

Whatever the case with product positioning, it appears that at least where the PC is concerned, Intel has HyperTransport squarely in its sights with Arapahoe.


What does "Arapahoe" mean?

"Arapahoe" (also spelled "Arapaho") is the name for a nomadic American Indian bison hunting people that lived in Colorado and Wyoming during the 1800's.  Their language and traditions indicate that their ancestors formerly lived in permanent villages in the eastern woodlands of North America.  These people observed the Sun Dance rituals.  There are only a few thousand Arapaho left, mainly residing in Oklahoma.