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From telecom backplanes to computer servers

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

Keywords:telecom? network? ethernet? backplane? server?

Firmly established in telecom, backplane-based systems are now taking hold in computer server design as well. Backplanes bring the benefits of dense yet flexible systems, but they also carry their own set of challenges.

Getting to next-generation backplane speeds of 10Gbps has sparked a significant debate around Serdes approaches and the requirements of passive-backplane and connector channels. In this section, we get some viewpoints on this hot topic.

John D'Ambrosia of Tyco and Joel Goergen of Force10 Networks write about why characterizing the passive backplane needs to become more of a central issue in this debate. Members of the Unified 10Gb Physical-layer Initiative (UXPi) provide design data that suggests neither its binary-signaling approach nor the alternative of multilevel signaling will be a magic bullet for all applications at this speed.

A chief technologist from Sun Microsystems discusses why his company is making a significant bet on Infiniband-based backplane systems. He notes both the benefits and challenges Sun faces fielding such systems, including the need for a new generation of integrated management software.

OctigaBay--acquired by Cray Inc. earlier this year--provides a different OEM perspective about its choice for an active backplane design. The company aims to outperform today's clusters of off-the-shelf Linux servers in the low end of the supercomputing arena.

Updates on two important standards efforts are also included in the section. Adam Healey, who chairs the IEEE study group on backplane Ethernet, outlines that group's goals as it prepares to start the process of formally drafting a standard.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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