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Multi-chip module rolls for 10GBase-T

Posted: 05 Nov 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:10G Ethernet  motherboards  high speed link  copper cables  10GBase-T adapter card 

Two chip makers have teamed up to create what they claim is the first chip to bring 10G Ethernet over copper to server motherboards. Mellanox Technologies and Teranetics hope the ConnectX ENt accelerates what to date has been a sluggish uptake for the high speed link.

For about a year, Mellanox has been selling a 10GBase-T adapter card using its own media access controller combined with a dual-port physical layer chip from Teranetics. The new product combines dice from the two companies into one multi-chip module aimed for use on server motherboards.

Silicon for 10G Ethernet, especially the 10GBase-T version geared for copper cables, has been plagued to date by relatively high costs and power consumption. The dual-port ConnectX ENt dissipates 20W maximum and will sell for less than Rs.10,007.28 ($200) in volumes, well below the Rs.40,029.11 ($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, a senior product marketing manager at Mellanox."If you look at cost per Gbit, we are even lower than the Gbit Ethernet products," he added.

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

The duo did not get many takers for their 10GBase-T adapter card. They do not expect significant sales to kick in for the new chip until mid-2009 when 10GBase-T switches start becoming more widely available.

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

For Mellanox, the move 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 10G Ethernet for other copper and optical interfaces.

Ethernet still represents less than 10 per cent of the revenues for Mellanox which hit Rs.145.61 crore ($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 slow due to the economic crisis, although they expressed hopes strategic projects based on new technologies such as 10GBase-T will go forward. Mellanox forecast revenues for its next quarter would be down to about Rs.120 crore ($25 million).

The ConnectX ENt uses a PCI Express 2.0 systems interface. It supports virtualisation features including VMWare's NetQueue and the SR-IOV standard. It also supports Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times





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