SLI on Skulltrail – how?

Posted: 02.15.08

That’s what I wanted to know – how’d you get SLI to work on the 5444 chipset. I asked the folks at Intel. I got shrugged shoulders and apologetic smiles. Not being coy, the people I was talking to just didn’t know, but did, in true (and almost always reliable) Intel fashion, promise to ask around and find out. I figured it was magic, a little trickery maybe, but if it was, it wasn’t easy.

It's well known Intel doesn't have an SLI license, but the Nvidia SLI control panel on the computer was operational in the Display Settings dialog box, and this is on Windows Ultimate 32bit. So, a few days later I said, braggingly to some of my pals at Nvidia, I have a Skulltrail with an unlicensed SLI operation. It works great.

The boss of that group looked at me and said, it’s legal. Huh? says I expressing my cool and calm composure. But you guys didn’t license SLI to Intel.

The Skulltrail motherboard uses Intel's workstation “Stoakley” chipset designed for 2P CPU operation, which is now the x5444.

That’s right Jon, my pal said, in a patient voice. But don’t you remember IDF? To enable SLI support, Intel is purchasing Nvidia nForce 100 SLI MCPs from us.

Oh, I had forgotten – gee, IDF, that was so, so September, I’ve been around the world since then, I’m having trouble remembering the drive down here.

Well, he went on, the nForce 100 MCP converts a single x16 PCI Express Gen 1 bus into dual x16 PCI Express Gen 1 buses, and that’s how SLI is being supported on Skulltrail, as the diagram below shows.

CPU architecture

Nvidia actually assisted Intel in the bringing-up and testing of the Skulltrail motherboard which were demonstrated at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco. IN SEPTEMBER.

Not only that, my pal said (rapidly reassessing his choice of friends), you even wrote about it in TechWatch. I thanked him for the coffee and slumped away. And here I thought I had an exclusive. I had been scooped by myself.

The moral of this story, aside from the obvious — we're all taking in so much information we don't even know what we know — is this: there have been years of subtle fighting between Intel and Nvidia and years of co-opetition, and in the end, both companies will get the job done — whatever it takes.