In late May we reported on rumors at The Reg and the New York Times (here) that interconnect maker Quadrics was heading for a shutdown of operations in June. Subsequent Googling turned up a big fat zero, except that the rumors hadn’t yet been confirmed.
I started sending some emails around, and heard back from former Quadrics employees, who confirmed that four Quadrics staff transferred to Vega Ltd., another company owned by the parent of Quadrics, Finmeccanica UK. Vega acquired Quadrics’ outstanding support contracts, including the flagship Tera10 at CEA in France, and they also got the remaining Quadrics hardware stock to supply spares for existing customers. There is also some word that Vega has acquired some of the Quadrics IP, but no clear indication yet on what will happen to that.
I was also told that last monday (Jun 29) was the last day that the Quadrics office was open and through which people were paid.
Evidently the company was very close to coming to market with its QsNet III when things shut down. Here is the narrative as it was related to me
QsNet II, its predecessor came onto the general market in early 2004. The last significant QsNet II system was installed in Oct 2008 at British Aerospace in the UK, having beaten off 2 other vendors who offered Infiniband solutions — the Quadrics based solution won hands down on the customers own benchmarks.
Quadrics has been working on QsNet III since the design work on QsNet II was finished in 2003. Quadrics taped out the new chips in late 2008, and got as far as demonstrating sending messages from one node to another via several QsNet III switches before the plug was pulled (no pun intended) in April 2009. QsNet III had 25 Gbit/s in each direction per link. Each PCIe card had dual links, such that the theoretical peak comfortably surpassed QDR IB. The Elan5 ASIC that formed the basis of QsNet III had an incredible seven cpu cores, each a 500 MHz dual issue RISC with 8 loads and 8 DMAs pending, and 4 outstanding DMA writes. Each had a 16 Kbyte instruction cache and a 9 Kbyte DMA buffer (see paper here).
All this complexity made the Elan5 a very powerful communications processor indeed. However this complexity, coupled with the budget constraints put on the staffing the design team led to the project seriously overrunning. As recently as 2006, Quadrics were showing a roadmap (slide 9) that had the Elan5 being ready in early 2007. Another blow to Quadrics was when a group of the core design team left to form a new company at the end of 2007. During the course of 2008, several other Quadrics staff left to join them. One of the final nails in the coffin was when the last of the original founders of Quadrics, Duncan Roweth, left in early 2009 after 13 years with the company. He is now a principal engineer at Cray.
Quadrics, 1996-2009, now officially and firmly in the deadpool.