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Motherboards welcome 10GbE

Posted: 05 Nov 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:10Gbit Ethernet? adapter? MAC?

Two chipmakers have collaborated to develop what they claim as the first chip to produce 10Gbit Ethernet (10GbE) over copper to server motherboards. Mellanox Technologies Ltd and Teranetics Inc. strive for the ConnectX ENt to accelerate what has been a sluggish uptake for the high-speed link.

Mellanox has been selling for a year a 10GBase-T adapter card using its own MAC integrated to a dual-port PHY chip from Teranetics. The new product presents a dice from the two firms creating one multichip module that is designed for server motherboards.

Silicon for 10GbE, particularly the 10GBase-T version tailored for copper cables, has been affected by relatively high costs and power usage. The dual-port ConnectX ENt dissipates 20W maximum and will be sold for less than $200 in volume, well below the $800 costs at retail for today's single-port 10GBase-T adapter cards.

"This second generation will make the technology much more attractive," said T.A. Ramanujam, senior product marketing manager, Mellanox. "If you look at the cost per Gbit, we are even lower than the GbE products," he added.

"An integrated MAC/PHY solution makes it possible to provide this upgrade at a reasonable cost," said Nik Simpson, senior analyst, Burton Group, in a press statement.

The two firms did not get many takers for their 10GBase-T adapter card. They do not see significant sales to kick in for the new chip until mid-2009 when 10GBase-T switches will become widely available.

"The ecosystem of 10GBase-T has been evolving," said Kamal Dalmia, VP marketing, Teranetics.

For Mellanox, shifting into Ethernet products is an attempt to diversify beyond its base in silicon for Infiniband, a relatively small, but high-performance networking sector, where it is dominant. The company already sells two other products supporting 10GbE for other copper and optical interfaces.

Ethernet still has less than 10 percent of the revenues for Mellanox, which hit $29.1 million in its most recent quarter. However, the company said its Ethernet products recently scored new design wins with OEMs in Japan and Europe.

Both companies said they expect spending on servers to slowdown because of the economic crisis, although they are optimistic that strategic projects on the new technologies such as 10GBase-T will go forward. Mellanox forecast revenues for its next quarter would be down to about $25 million.

The ConnectX ENt employs a PCIe 2.0 systems interface. It backs virtualization features like VMWare's NetQueue and the SR-IOV standard. It also supports Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

The Teranetics TN2202 chip said in August and used in the new multichip module supports distances up to 100m on Category 6a copper cables, and up to 55m on Category 6 and 5e cables.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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