Nvidia intros nForce Professional, Quadro SLI

San Jose (CA) - Nvidia expanded its chipset presence into the server and workstation market: The nForce Professional targets AMD Opteron-based systems. The company also announced SLI support for its Quadro graphics chips.

After launching the nForce 4 chipset back in October 2004, Nvidia now offers the features of the product not only for AMD's desktop processors, but also for a "cost-effective" server and workstation range. The nForce4 platform includes the "basic" nForce Professional 2200 and the I/O companion chip 2050 as an extension.

The 2200 will be available as a standalone product, delivering the current fifth generation HyperTransport design with a 16x16 link, a PCI Express interface with four controllers and 16 lanes, Gbit Ethernet support, four 3 Gbit SATA and four ATA-133 interfaces as well as ten USB 2.0 ports.

The 2050 extends the functionality of the basic 2200 and will appear in higher end server and workstation products. PCI Express support is extended to 20 lanes with an option of a flexible configuration. The chip also connects to up to four SATA-2 ports. In server environments, the 2200 chip can be combined with up to three 2050 companion chips and provide a total of 80 PCI Express lanes, 16 SATA interfaces and 4 Gbit Ethernet connectivity.

Opteron-based workstations can be equipped with a 2200 chip and one 2050 for a total of 40 PCI-Express lanes, eight SATA ports and a 2Gbit Ethernet interface. But users of these systems will also benefit from the addition of Nvidia's Scalable Link Interface (SLI): While the technology so far was only supported on the desktop for the GeForce 6600GT and higher, now also workstations can support two Quadro graphics cards in one system.

According to Nvidia, about 150,000 units of the nForce4 were sold so far. The desktop segment is much larger than the server and workstation market, but Nvidia hopes that performance and platform enhancements will attract enough server and workstation manufacturers to increase its chip sales significantly.

Following an announcement in November, Nvidia will offer the nForce 4 platform in the "next couple of months" also for Intel-based desktop systems, the company said.