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Sun turns to National for GigE chip development

Posted: 01 Apr 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:national semiconductor? gigabit ethernet? media access control? sun microsystems? network?

National Semiconductor has combined proprietary Gigabit Ethernet media access control (MAC) technology from Sun Microsystems with it's own Gigabit Ethernet physical layer (PHY) core to develop a single-port controller that Sun will use in adapters, blade servers, and other network computing designs.

Sun has traditionally looked to add value to its computing and server designs by building it's own Ethernet MAC technology and filtering out the PHY layer to third-party analog players like National. However, as Sun looked to evolve its Gigabit Ethernet strategy and reduce costs, the company opted to hand its MAC IP to National so this IP could be combined with the GigPHYTER PHY in a single package, said Mike Noonen, VP of National's PC and Networking Group. "This allows them to be more cost competitive," Noonen said.

In addition to being cost competitive, Sun's partnership with National will allow the company to bring higher layers of integration to its board architectures. For example, Sun launched an adapter last month using the new chip that provided four Gigabit Ethernet ports - a product Noonen said would probably have not been developed with the previous two-chip architecture.

To complement its efforts in reducing footprint and cost, National also took steps to reduce overall power consumption in the new chip design. Clearly, through integration, National has cut power through its new design. Additionally, Noonen said the company developed an optimized power management subsystem for the new Gigabit Ethernet controller.

From both of these efforts, National has been able to deliver a 1.75W typical power consumption on chip. In comparison, the two-chip solution drew 2.85W power.

The single-port Gigabit Ethernet controller will be developed in a 0.18?m process at National's South Portland, Maine plant. The chip has been implemented in a recent product in Sun's GigaSwift Ethernet adapter line.

- Robert Keenan

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