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Startup streamlines design path to 10GbE

Posted: 15 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:10Gbit Ethernet controller? 10G technology? 10GbE?

NetXen Inc. will support multiple physical interfaces in its third-generation 10GbE controller, underlying the fragmented nature of cable support that has slowed the roll out of 10G technology.

Flexible design
The startup's latest chip will support four GbE links as standard, aiming to get design wins on server motherboards. Through optional add-on modules the chip can support a variety of 10G optical and copper links used on various kinds of servers including SFP+, CX-4 and 10GBase-T links.

NetXen has submitted patents behind its so-called FlexLOM [LAN on motherboard] approach.

"NetXen's FlexLOM solution clearly differentiates them from other 10GbE vendors and should accelerate the industry transition from Gigabit to 10GbE," said Bob Wheeler a senior analyst with market watcher The Linley Group, speaking in a prepared statement from NetXen.

NetXen's NX3031 delivers 22Gbit/s of bi-directional throughput and greater than 14Gbits/s receive throughput for 1,500byte packets, according to tests conducted by the Tolly Group.

It's not clear how OEMs will respond to the NetXen approach which natively supports four Gbit links but requires small add-on cards to provide connections for other optical or copper options. Gigabit links currently dominate in servers because they are as much as an order of magnitude lower in cost.

"Server makers are reluctant to commit 10GbE connectivity to the motherboard because the market has not coalesced around a single PHY interface for 10GbE," NetXen said in a white paper accompanying its product release.

10G landscape
Unlike previous Ethernet transitions, the leap to 10G has forced a wholesale move to significantly different cabling to reach typical 100m lengths. That has been one major stumbling block for the technology. The generally high cost and power consumption of transceivers has also held the move to 10G back.

Vendors have been rolling out a variety of approaches to accelerate the shift to 10G. In 2007, vendors shipped less than a million ports of 10G Ethernet products, according to The Linley Group.

Cisco Systems launched a new Fibre Channel over Ethernet switch to help drive adoption of 10G in servers by enabling use of a single 10G card to replace separate Gbit Ethernet and Fibre Channel cards. However, a marketing executive with Hewlett-Packard said most business users still prefer to keep storage and networking traffics separate on their systems.

Chip designers such as Teranetics and Solarflare recently rolled out transceivers that consume 6W or less per port. Switch chip makers Broadcom, Fujitsu and Fulcrum have announced 24-port 10GbE switches recently.

NetXen is now shipping its NX3031 part geared for PCIe 2.0 adapters. The company claims its pricing will match that of Gbit chips on a per-port basis.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times





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