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Chip supports Infiniband, Ethernet, Fibre Channel

Posted: 19 Feb 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:chip BridgeX? Infiniband Ethernet? Fibre Channel?

Mellanox Technologies Ltd will jump into the market for multiprotocol bridging chips and systems. The company's BridgeX chip will power a family of gateway systems Mellanox will sell supporting 40Gbit/s InfiniBand, 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel.

The move marks another step in the company's efforts to expand beyond its roots as an Infiniband chip supplier. In November, it partnered with Teranetics to deliver a chipset for 10GbE over copper links.

A broad group of companies said in April they will support Fibre Channel over Ethernet as part of a move to consolidating data center networks, a trend Mellanox hopes to ride.

Higher-speed data center fabric
"We are seeing more interest in converged I/O solutions among companies who want to improve efficiency and reduce energy and management costs, and BridgeX looks to be a strong offering in this area," said Stephen Josselyn, a research director covering servers at International Data Corp., speaking in a prepared statement.

"By bridging Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand on a single 40Gbit fabric, Mellanox is making it possible for companies to migrate to a converged, higher-speed data center fabric without abandoning legacy investments in adapters and switches," he added.

The BridgeX chip supports two 40Gbit/s Infiniband ports and up to six ports of either 10GbE or 8G Fibre Channel in any mix. The chip can use an encapsulation technique with Infiniband as the link layer or natively bridge Ethernet and Fibre Channel directly.

The chip supports a variety of PHY interfaces including Xaui, XFI/SFP+ and 10GBase-KR for links to Ethernet backplanes in server blade systems. It dissipates about 14W on average.

Mellanox will make systems using the chip to move data between Infiniband and Ethernet/Fibre Channel nets. It has already supplied such systems to Lawrence Livermore National Lab, which uses a large Infiniband cluster.

"A cost-effective, high-performance I/O consolidation solution over InfiniBand delivers faster and low-latency access to our Lustre, NFS storage applications," said Mark Seager, assistant department head for advanced technology at the lab. "Integrating a BridgeX-based solution in our cluster provides seamless access to our existing LAN and SAN infrastructure that operates at line rates," he said in the prepared statement.

By shipping its own branded or OEM systems, Mellanox hopes to speed its technology to market. It took a similar approach of shipping chips and systems when it released its 40G Infiniband switch silicon in June.

Currently, Mellanox ships its own 40G switches and sells the chips used in them to switch makers such as Cisco, QLogic, Sun Microsystems and Voltaire.

"The objective is not to compete with those guys, but to expand the market," said Gilad Shainer, director of technical marketing at Mellanox.

In part as a result of its system strategy, as much as 40 percent of Mellanox's revenues now come from the 40G product's launch in June, a company spokesman said. "We are seeing much faster adoption of 40G than when we went from 10 to 20G," he said.

"Other companies building switches just weren't ready [for 20G], and that delayed the uptake," he added. "We wanted 40G to ramp faster."

However, Gilad said the company does not currently plan to make a native Ethernet-to Fibre Channel bridge system with its new chip. Instead it will focus on selling its chip to OEMs who want to build such boxes.

Sun Microsystems, a Mellanox customer, has yet to declare whether it will build its own gateways with BridgeX chips or use systems from Mellanox or other third parties.

The BridgeX chips and systems are available immediately. The systems start at a list price of $9,995. Mellanox did not disclose chip prices.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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