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PLX unveils PCIe 2.0 switch portfolio

Posted: 18 Sep 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PCIe 2.0 switches? interconnect technology?

Since the rollout of its first PCI Express products in 2004, PLX Technology Inc. never wavered in its confidence that this interconnect technology will dominate the market. Now claiming one of the most comprehensive portfolios of PCIe devices in the industry, the company continues to push the envelope, and today it is unveiling a new line of switches that conform to the second generation of PCIe.

"Switches and bridges play a key role in the interconnect market," said Akber Kazmi, PLX Technology's marketing director for PCIe switches. "For the last three years, we've been shipping PCIe switches and bridges to the market, now that PCI has become the mainstream interconnect technology."

There are five devices in the new ExpressLane PCIe Gen 2 switch family: PEX 8648 (48 lanes, 12 ports), PEX 8632 (32 lanes, 12 ports), 8624 (24 lanes, 6 ports), PEX 8616 (16 lanes, 4 ports) and PEX 8612 (12 lanes, 3 ports).

Power and performance
The new products from PLX tout low latency, low power and high performance. "In terms of power that directly translates to cost of ownership for the end system customer, we have the lowest power consumption in our switches in all categories," Kazmi explained. Moreover, the new switches feature latency as low as 110ns, according to the company's product announcement.

The recently introduced PCIe 2.0 doubles the interconnect rate of the spec from 2.5GTps to 5GTps, and with this speed boost comes a corresponding increase in power draw. "When you go from Gen 1 to Gen 2, your power increases," Kazmi said. PLX addressed the issue in their Gen 1 products by migrating to 90nm process technology from 130nm. "Moving forward for Gen 2 products, we might migrate to 65nm or lower technologies to accommodate large circuits and reduced power consumption."

"We are also using flip-chip technology to make sure that signal integrity is maintained," Kazmi added. PLX is also prepped up to address the concerns on space constraints. "We are putting these products in smaller packages to allow their use in space-sensitive applications based on customer demand," Kazmi said. "Those products will be available."

Backward-compatible
"There was some discussion that all Gen 2 and Gen 1 [products] are not compatiblethis is not true," Kazmi noted. He said that the specification stated that the products should work across the board from Gen 2 to Gen 1.

"The products [that] we are launching today are fully compatible with PCIe Gen 1 technology, meaning 1.0a and 1.1," Kazmi further noted. Thus, the ExpressLane switches allow easy migration from existing designs. The new switches also have flexible port configuration of up to x16 and also feature Hot-Plug controllershelping customers reduce BOM costs.

The company's new line of switches addresses the requirements of next-generation graphics, backplanes, servers, storage, host bus adapter and embedded markets. "We are currently engaged with top-tier suppliers in all market segmentsserver, storage, communications," Kazmi shared, also noting design activities in Asia involving their products such as Japan's NEC Corp.'s D-Series scalable storage systems.

The PEX 8648, 8632, 8624, 8616 and 8612 are now available for sampling, and will be in production in Q1 2008.

As the interconnect market anticipates the final specifications of PCIe 3.0 in 2009, PLX prepares to cope with the market changes. Kazmi said that the company will be working with industry leaders and the PCI Special Interest Group to develop the specification. Moreover, "we're also discussing some enhancements to the PCIe protocol to adapt to the changing needs of the applications. Once the specification is done and we actually work in parallel with our partners, we can build the products and make them available to market at the same time that the processors, chipsets and I/O devices become available for that speed."

- Maria Cecilia Carpena
EE Times-Asia




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