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Farewell, general-purpose PCIe

Posted: 02 Jun 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PCI Express? PCIe Gen2? general-purpose switches?

Montana: The Swiss Army knife, one-size-fits-all approach to PCIe switch design is over.

General-purpose switching and bridging components no longer have a place in demanding PCIe-based systems. The Swiss Army knife, one-size-fits-all approach to PCIe switch design is over. The transition to PCIe Gen2 coincides with a coalescing of market forces to render general-purpose PCIe switches obsolete.

Death by becoming standard
As the PCIe ecosystem evolved, peripherals and endpoints adopted PCIe as the de facto standard for native chip-to-chip interconnect. That effectively ended the life of the general-purpose PCIe-to-legacy protocol bridge and put the PCIe switch into the spotlight. As the PCIe switch became a more central piece of the I/O and interconnect subsystem, architects demanded solutions that matched lane and port configurations with a hand-in-glove fit.

The final blow to the general-purpose PCIe switch was struck by the development and emergence of PCIe Gen2. First of all, system switching needs for high-performance server, storage, communications and embedded designs have become well-defined and have diverged from one another. Although early generations of designs were forced to use general-purpose switches for basic connectivity needs, the power, real estate and system costs of carrying additional, unnecessary features is no longer acceptable.

Requiring more
Second, as most application spaces move to their second or third generation of designs based on PCIe interconnects, their system feature requirements have matured and reached a level of sophistication that requires optimized switches to implement features beyond the PCI-SIG-mandated requirements. This is now apparent in the volume server market, and as additional markets drive toward PCIe Gen2, they too will press for their own unique feature sets.

Other switching technologies have successfully implemented standard configurations and feature sets to serve broad sets of markets, but general-purpose PCIe switches no longer satisfy the needs of today's demanding applications.

Sure, a Swiss Army knife has a blade that could cut down a tree, but lumberjacks seem to prefer chain saws.

- Mario Montana
VP and General Manager
Serial Switching Division
Integrated Device Technology Inc.

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