Electronic Design

Chips And NICs Set The Stage for 10GE Networks

Ten Gigabit Ethernet (10GE) has been around for a few years. But it hasn't enjoyed widespread deployment, mainly because of its high cost. With optical interfaces coming down in price and a 10GE copper solution forthcoming, though, 10GE is ready to take off.

The pressure is really on to add greater capacity and speed to existing networks and data centers. Applications like storage networks, Internet Protocol television and Video on Demand, server clustering, and consolidation are making 10GE a near necessity.

Now, startup NetXen is presenting its 10GE networking chips and network interface cards (NICs) as the first really affordable solution that breaks all previous performance barriers. Its NX2031 Intelligent NIC chip offers two 1-Gbit Ethernet (1GE) ports and two 10GE ports (Figures 1 and 2). The 10GE ports may use any one of several fiber physicallayer (PHY) solutions or the soon-to-emerge copper interface.

The chip talks to the computer via a standard PCI Express bus with x1, x4, or x8 speeds to 4 Gbytes/s. Other features include a DRAM controller with 128-bit data path with up to 16-Gbyte capacity and a quad-data-rate (QDR) SRAM controller with up to 16-Mbyte capacity. A built-in crossbar switching matrix allows all of the internal circuits to talk to one another at maximum speed.

The NX2031 also has a high-performance ECC-protected (error correction code) memory controller providing up to 10-Gbyte/s bandwidth. It supports from 128 Mbytes to 16 Gbytes of memory, allowing the product to scale to suit a variety of applications.

The heart of the chip is NetXen's Protocol Processing Engine (PPE). This hybrid computing element is optimized for data sequencing typical in I/O operations.

Based on a patented architecture, this special processor gives state machine-like performance for I/O tasks while being fully programmable.

With today's multiple and constantly changing protocols, the ability to upgrade on-the-fly is a huge advantage. It lets servers evolve with changing market needs and adapt to different data-center workloads. The result is improved flexibility and investment protection in an everchanging climate.

The NX2031 offers several key benefits. It improves performance and efficiency by offloading multiple network protocols simultaneously. Also, it enables data-center consolidation and virtualization. It offers an operating-system-agnostic approach to protocol offload. And, it enables high throughput and low latency suitable for clustering and storage applications.

Additionally, the chip lets data-center performance scale while increasing power efficiency. According to NetXen, the NIC increases data-center network performance by a factor of 10 and system power efficiency by 50% for less than half the cost of current solutions.

The NX2035 is similar to the NX2031, but it has four 1GE ports instead of two. NetXen also offers a full line of NICs using these chips and your choice of several media options, including 10GE XFP, CX4, and the forthcoming 802.3an short-range copper solution. Already, Hewlett-Packard and IBM have signed on with NetXen for their line of blade servers. All of the Net-Xen products are available right now.

NetXen Inc.

TAGS: Intel
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