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Startup eyes enhanced Ethernet in the data center

Posted: 20 May 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ethernet? ammasso? ammasso 1100? 1gbE adapter? toe?

Another startup working on enhanced Ethernet for the data center officially emerges from stealth mode as Ammasso Inc. launches its first product.

The Ammasso 1100 is a 1GbE adapter for server clusters that supports a TCP offload engine and remote direct memory access.

TOE and RDMA are seen as key technologies to reduce latency over Ethernet, opening the door to its use as a ubiquitous networking technology in the data center. They also replace proprietary server clustering technologies and relatively expensive Fiber Channel networks for storage-area networking.

Several top data center OEMs have been driving the RDMA specification and a number of startups with chips and cards supporting their work is now emerging as a wave following the spec. For example, Infiniband startup Banderacom announced it has reorganized itself as NetEffects to build Ethernet silicon with RDMA and TOE.

Established players including Alacritech and Broadcom have announced Ethernet chips with RDMA and TOE, which is also being supported natively under Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming versions of Windows. Initially, Boston-based Ammasso is only targeting clustering because it lacks support for the iSCSI standard to handle block storage access over Ethernet. The company has pinned hopes on work on a so-called iSCSI Extensions for RDMA (ISER) that aims to blend iSCSI support into the RDMA spec. It's not clear when the ISER work will be complete.

A number of companies have stumbled in efforts to pack 1Gb Ethernet, TOE, RDMA and iSCSI on silicon. In part, that's because the chips proved too expensive to compete with Fiber Channel which is already shipping at 2Gbps and rapidly moving to 4Gbps.

Ammasso aims its 1100 card at server clustering providing native support for the message passing interface used in technical applications and the direct access provider library used in commercial clusters. The company is still optimizing performance on the product, targeting an application-level latency of 10?s.

The card will be available in June for $825 in single-unit end user pricing. OEM volume discounts are available.

The 1100 is initially based on a Xilinx Virtex Pro FPGA. The company has started work on an ASIC supporting both 1GbE and 10GbE, but is waiting for RDMA standards to be ratified at the Internet Engineering Task Force before it commits to silicon.

The 45-person company includes about 35 engineers and is still hiring more engineers for its ASIC design team. Three former members of Network Engines, a server startup that had purchased TOE capabilities when it bought startup IP Performance, formed Ammasso about a year ago. The company snagged $10 million in series A venture funding last June and is now starting work on a Series B round for an undisclosed amount.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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