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ServerWorks adds GbE to server chipset

Posted: 06 Sep 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:serverworks? ciob e? ethernet i/o bridge? ciob es? server chipset?

ServerWorks Corp. has integrated GbE and serdes technology into its server core logic, leveraging the communications capabilities of its parent company, Broadcom Corp. The move could further boost the already widespread use of GbE in mainstream PC servers and give impetus to the use of Ethernet as a backplane in emerging server blades systems.

"This is basically our first step in converging computing and communications," said Raju Vegesna, president and CEO of ServerWorks. Ultimately, the company plans to bring GbE support directly into its memory controller chips, perhaps in 90nm generation devices, Vegesna said.

The Ethernet I/O bridges come in four flavors. The Grand Champion Ethernet I/O Bridge, or CIOB-E, integrates dual 10/100/1,000 Ethernet MAC and PHY logic as well as a 64-bit, 133MHz PCI-X host bridge supporting up to four devices. The CIOB-ES adds dual serdes interfaces for links to a passive backplane in a server blade design.

At the low end, the 5704 supports a single 133MHz PCI-X device, and the 5703 offers just one GbE connection and supports a single 66MHz/133MHz PCI-X device.

Vegesna said the integration represents a significant savings in board real estate, latency, and power consumption over current designs where GbE comes into the chipset via a separate PCI bridge chip. He estimates the power savings over such a design at 30 percent, though he had no specifics on the size or latency improvements. Power consumption of the chips is estimated at 3W to 5W.

"This helps simplify server designs so there are fewer parts which need to be designed in. This should also help with the cost, although the advantage is relatively small versus total system cost," said Paul Miller, a product-marketing manager in Hewlett-Packard Co.'s PC server division.

Miller added that he was unaware of any other vendors pursuing such a path, although he said it's unlikely a server maker would select a chipset solely for the Ethernet integration.

The bridge chips link to the memory controller using ServerWorks' proprietary 3.2GBps IMB2 bus. However, improved latency due to fewer chip-to-chip hops would improve Ethernet performance on the device more than the raw bandwidth of the connection, Vegesna said.

"Because of developments like this, every server next year will be using Gigabit Ethernet and I expect within 18 months or so we will be able to move on toward 10GbE over copper," he added.

For server management purposes, the CIOB-E supports the IPMI management interface and four SMBus ports. The CIOB-E is priced at about $50 each.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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