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Romley Drives 10GBase-T
Simon Stanley

The dramatic increase in server processor performance, following the introduction of the latest processors, is driving a significant shift to 10-Gigabit Ethernet in general and 10GBase-T in particular. Servers with the Intel Xeon Processors E5-2600 and E5-2400 Series, code-named "Romley," can easily handle packet bandwidths significantly above 1 Gbit/s. PCI Express (PCIe) adapters with 10GBase-T interfaces and LAN-on-motherboard (LOM) modules are now readily available from several manufacturers. These factors, together with the simplicity of twisted pair cabling similar to that already used for 1000Base-T is driving demand for 10GBase-T.

Twisted pair cabling was a significant development that accelerated the deployment of 10M and 100M Ethernet in the 1990s. Simple wiring and auto-negotiation are key attractions of Ethernet on twisted pair cables. Once twisted pair cables were supported by GE with cost-effective 1000Base-T switches and adapters, there was an explosion of GE connections, quickly eclipsing previous GE deployments. 10GBase-T is quickly moving toward mass deployment. Several semiconductor companies have 40nm 10GBase-T PHY devices that allow switch vendors to offer 10GBase-T solutions that compare favorably with 10GE optical alternatives. The next generation of 28nm PHY devices, as well as integrated adapter and LOM devices, will tip the balance further toward 10GBase-T.

At this critical time, the latest issue of Heavy Reading Components Insider, "10GBase-T Hits the Streets," analyzes 10GBase-T solutions, covering 10GBase-T PHY devices, integrated 10GE controller/MAC devices and 10GBase-T adapters. The report covers more than 40 devices, identifies the key features and highlights the advantages they hold for equipment manufacturers. The report also profiles ten key vendors, reviewing vendor strategy and product features, performance and flexibility.

The first standards-compliant 10GBase-T PHY became available during 2007. At this time, there were several startups developing 10GBase-T, and power consumption was high at 10W-12W per port. Since 2007 there has been significant consolidation as companies have worked to reduce power consumption, and established Ethernet PHY vendors have come into the market. Power consumption per port is now below 4W for 100m and as low as 1.8W for 10m connections. New devices currently in development using 28nm technology will reduce power consumption per port, making 10GBase-T the favored solution for most short-reach applications (10m-100m).

10GBase-T PHY devices are available from four vendors: Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (Nasdaq: AMCC), Aquantia Corp. , Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL). Quad-port devices are used in switches. Companies shipping switches with 10GBase-T ports include Arista Networks Inc. , Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) and Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR). Dual-port and single-port PHY devices are used in 10GBase-T adapters and other systems. All four 10GBase-T PHY vendors are shipping quad- and dual-port devices.

Most 10GBase-T adapters and LOM solutions use separate 10GBase-T PHY and 10GE controller/MAC devices. Adapter manufacturers with their own 10GE controller/MAC devices include Broadcom, Chelsio Communications Inc. , Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Solarflare Communications Inc. . Intel and Solarflare have 10GE controller/MAC devices with one or two integrated 10GBase-T PHYs. Tehuti Networks Ltd. has also developed a single-port 10GE controller/MAC device. We expect most adapter vendors to follow this lead and develop 28nm versions of their 10GE controller/MAC devices with integrated 10GBase-T PHY licensed from one of the PHY vendors.

10GBase-T PHY adapters are available from several vendors, including Dell, Chelsio, Emulex, Intel, Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) and Solarflare. These adapters have 10GE controller/MAC devices that implement TCP/IP offload and SR-IOV virtualization. Many adapters support Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), iSCSI, Data Center Bridging (DCB) and Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE).

The introduction of new servers using the Intel Romley chips is driving demand for 10GBase-T. Existing 40nm solutions are attractive compared to optical alternatives when the total cost of ownership is considered. The introduction of new devices using 28nm silicon technology provides a key opportunity to reduce the cost of 10GBase-T with lower per-port power consumption and higher integration for PCIe adapters and LOM solutions.

Simon Stanley, Analyst, Heavy Reading Components Insider


This report, 10GBase-T Hits the Streets, is available for $1,595. For more information, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/commchip.

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