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Fast network products make their mark

Posted: 19 Nov 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:interconnect? switch? TCP/IP?

Fast interconnects are boosting their data rates at this week's Supercomputing 2008 conference in California (Nov.15-21)

QLogic Corp. has launched a range of so-called quad-rate Infiniband switches based on a new ASIC with 36 ports running at up to 40Gbit/s each. The switches will compete with designs from companies such as Voltaire Inc. using merchant chips from Mellanox Technologies.

Meanwhile, Alacritech Inc. rolled an improved version of its 10Gbit Ethernet (10GbE) adapter card that can be used for partial offload of TCP/IP processing. The company said it will release a card for the copper-based 10GBase-T standard by June.

For QLogic, the new ASIC comes from an Inifiniband design team it built up with resources taken from acquisitions of startups Pathscale and Silverstorm. Infiniband is a high-speed, low latency interconnect, typically linking computer clusters.

"We intend to be number one Infiniband switch supplier, and we can't build switches where the biggest cost item is the ASIC and not own that intellectual property," said Frank Berry, VP, corporate marketing, QLogic. "The last couple quarters Infiniband has been the fastest growing part of our business, growing 20 percent year-over-year compared to single digit growth elsewhere," he added.

Today, Mellanox is the only supplier of merchant Infiniband chips, a sector where QLogic is angling for an edge. "By doing our own ASIC we can more closely control system operations and advance features," said Kevin Judd, product manager, QLogic.

Specifically, the TrueScale ASIC can update routing tables in real-time to lower congestion. It can also help users relate groups of computers to develop virtual fabrics with unique subnet managers and QoS characteristics.

The 65nm chip backs latencies as low as 140ns. It fits in a 257-pin package and uses as little as 7.8W per port when configured in high-end director switches. QLogic is using the chip in a family of seven switches, including an 874-port director, which will be available early next year.

For its part, Alacritech is rolling out a version of its single-port 10GbE adapter card that supports partial TCP offload. The company pioneered a full offload method now used in Microsoft Windows.

"We cover both bases with this card," said Doug Rainbolt, VP, marketing, Alacritech.

The so-called stateless offload approach, used by many of Alacritech's competitors including Intel, allows the company expand to support for Linux, Mac OS X and OpenSolaris. It also backs VMware's ESX virtualization software.

The adapter initially comes in a version supporting SFP+ optical media and short range copper. The card rides the 2.5GHz PCIe slot, uses 10W average and costs $1,299 when available early next year. A version for 10GBase-T copper nets is due by June.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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