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Banderacom moves away from Infiniband

Posted: 12 May 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:neteffect? infiniband? banderacom? dma? ethernet?

NetEffect Inc., formerly known as Banderacom Inc., is emerging from the still-smoldering Infiniband initiative to retarget its efforts at the remote DMA extension of the 10Gb Ethernet spec. The small company, based here, today will announce a fresh infusion of cash along with its new name and new market focus.

Banderacom developed silicon from 2000 to 2002 for Infiniband edge devices. But the startup - formed largely by engineers who had cashed out of Gigabit Ethernet startup Jato Tech Inc. - never took its designs to volume production, because of faltering support for the Infiniband specification. The cost of developing a unique physical infrastructure for Infiniband, including cabling and switches, had proved too much to bear as data-center managers who were already comfortable with Ethernet struggled under the weight of the technology recession.

While the Infiniband effort soldiers on, with Mellanox Technologies Inc. and others continuing to develop and sell Infiniband silicon, Banderacom opted to bail out. In October 2002, it laid off all but 22 members of its work force, announced that it would go through a repositioning and hired former 3Com Corp. vice president Rick Maule as its new CEO.

The results include the name change to NetEffect and a shift in focus to the remote direct memory access (RDMA) Ethernet standard, sometimes referred to as the iWarp extension to 10Gb Ethernet. Half a dozen venture capital firms, including several that were not involved with Banderacom, have combined to provide NetEffect with $22 million in fresh funding.

Maule said NetEffect's target is on the enhanced, RDMA-capable network interface cards (NICs) that support the 10Gb Ethernet specification, with the RDMA extensions. These NICs are variously called R-NICs, for RDMA-NICs, or C-NICs, for converged NICs. In effect, the RDMA Ethernet standard looks to move Infiniband's best features to Ethernet.

The RDMA and TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) functions are being combined in the R-NICs. The iWarp spec includes a direct data placement function, which moves data from one server to another without intervention by a buffer memory.

"User-level direct access is one of the critical advances," Maule said. It lets a context switch tell the operating system that a buffer on one machine can send data to another server without context switching. That reduces the burden on the server, moving that function to the chip set on the 10Gb R-NICs. "Applications can send data from the applications buffer on one machine into another server without context switching. To an applications house, that means networking is free," said Maule.

As networking, storage and clustering converge on the 10Gb Ethernet standard, Maule said, the NetEffect chip will take much of the processing burden off the server, putting it near the memory controller on the NIC. The device has been in development for a year.

- David Lammers

EE Times

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