Vendors push gear that runs 10G over Cat 6 copper

Products break new ground and could signal more advances to come from the LAN industry

A trio of lesser-known LAN gear vendors this week launched 10G Ethernet products that break new ground in product categories and could signal more advances to come from the LAN industry.

Chelsio Communications Inc. and Tehuti Networks Ltd. both announced that they had the industry's first 10GBase-T server adapters -- which run 10Gbit/sec. of Ethernet over Category 6 or 7 copper cabling. The companies' press releases were both issued Thursday, although neither vendor expects to ship the products until March at the earliest. Meanwhile, Blade Network Technologies Inc. claimed it has the first 10G Ethernet switch module for a blade server chassis.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Chelsio's product is a single-port 10G Base-T server adapter, which the company says supports a full-duplex 10G Ethernet in standard PCI-Express bus systems. The card can also automatically sense a Gigabit Ethernet link, and operate at 1,000 Base-T. Tehuti is offering a dual-port 10G Base-T NIC. Both products are based on the IEEE 802.3an standard for 10G Ethernet over twisted-pair copper cabling, which was ratified as a standard in September 2006.

Part of the reason 10G Base-T products are just emerging now is because 10G Base-T NICs require a lot of electric power, says Chelsio CEO Kianoosh Naghshineh.

The NIC Chelsio developed requires just under 25 watts of power; over 25 watts would require an additional electrical feed to power the NIC, instead of drawing power from the computer's PCI-Express slot.

"Admittedly, this is bleeding edge, and not something we'll [ship] in huge volumes" at the beginning, Naghshineh said, adding that Chelsio plans to sell its NICs exclusively to server makers. He also said that future revision plans call for decreasing the wattage product uses to around 15 to 10 watts, so it will run cooler and drain less power from a server's power supply.

The other issue with 10G Base-T NICs, as of this moment, is that no LAN switches exist for these NICs to plug into. However, Naghshineh says "there will be switches forthcoming this quarter" from major LAN switch vendors, whom he would not name. Besides 10G Base-T, the NIC also supports TCP/IP packet process offloading, iSCSI for storage-over-IP/Ethernet links, and iWARP RDMA -- Ethernet-based remote direct memory access, which ties network pipes closer to a server's RAM for better performance.

For now, the dual-speed 1,000/10,000Mbit/sec. capability in the NIC could allow users to have 10G Base-T in place but use 1,000 Base-T in the meantime. Chelsio's dual-speed 10G Base-T NIC is priced at $2,000.

Tehuti, which did not announce pricing for its 10G Base-T NIC, also announced a dual-port 10GBase-CX4 card that's based on the previously-released coaxial copper standard for 10G Ethernet; it is priced at $500.

On the server side of 10G, Blade Network Technologies says it has the first 10G Ethernet switch module for blade servers: a 20-port, fiber-based 10G Ethernet blade for IBM BladeCenter H and HT systems. The card, built on Nortel-based Layer 2/3 switch technology, can provide six 10G Ethernet uplink ports for server modules in an IBM BladeCenter chassis and 14 downlink connections, the company says. The product will be available from IBM in February for $9,800.

This story, "Vendors push gear that runs 10G over Cat 6 copper" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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