Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Holy Grail for home nets

Could we be headed for one spec that delivers the best home networking over coax, phone or power lines? That's what they hope over at the HomeGrid Forum that launched yesterday with 11 members companies. They aim to accelerate work on the ITU-T G.hn standard-in-progress.

Turns out only a couple percent of the estimated 140 million home nets today use MoCA or HPNA and maybe 10 percent use some form of powerline, according to market gazers over at Parks Associates. It's mainly Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet at home today.

Still, it could be quite a boost for the industry to get behind one interoperable standard. I'm gathering opinions on this effort for a print wrap up story, so if you have something insightful to offer, drop a comment here or at rbmerrit@cmp.com. Can this work? Will people get behind it? What will it take? Sound off!

40G consensus at hand

That's what Nick Ilyadis, CTO of Broadcom's Ethernet networking group claims in a story I posted today.

It was noisy on his end at Interop and he may have been pumped up about all the 65nm products he was rolling in Vegas, but he seemed to feel with Broadcom's recent move to back a so-called Multi-Link Distribution proposal, the IEEE 802.3ba work on 40G Ethernet might reach consensus on a proposal at their next meeting.

If you have some insights into the issue at hand, post a comment here or drop me a line at rbmerrit@cmp.com. I want to stay on top of this work and need a little of your citizen journalism reporting to help me out!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Still more on 10G

More 10G news flowed this week in the after glow of the Storage Networking World conference where FCoE had a big coming out party.

I was interested to see 10GBase-KR get a boost with Fujitsu's new 10GE switch chip, but analysts were quick to point out there are plenty of signal integrity problems ahead getting today's 3 Gbit backplanes to 10G.

Good also to see Aquantia joining SolarFlare with a 5.5W 10GBase-T transceiver. It will be interesting to see how long Broadcom and Marvell stand on the sidelines waiting for a market to develop here.

On the server side, Mellanox is promising new firmware so it can carry a wealth of protocols on top of its ConnectX cards that handle all sort of net and storage functions on Infiniband and 10GE. It marked the first time I had heard Mellanox use the increasingly widespread term from Cisco—Data Center Ethernet—referring to the lossless version of the net still going through the standards process.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cisco cool on 10GBase-T

I got an interesting reality check on 10GBase-T from Ethernet giant Cisco Systems last week. The company's hot new data center spin-in, Nuova Systems said it will not use the standard for 10G over 100 meter copper in its latest switches.

"10GBase-T is great in terms of compatibility and simplicity, but the additional power, cost and latency means it is not really feasible for us and I don't think we will use it," said Dante Malagrino, director of product marketing at Nuova for a story that should be posted to EE Times shortly.

Instead Nuova/Cisco will use a hybrid solution based on a new copper cable terminated by SFP+ optical transceivers which it claims has lower power and latency than the 10GBase-T options. Malagrino pegged 10GBase-T at 2-3 microseconds in latency and 4-8W per link in power consumption. The new hybrid option, one of several alternative cables to emerge in the last year, will initially be limited to 1, 3 and 5 meter lengths but could shave 30 percent off the overall costs of an optical fibre link, he said.

SolarFlare Communications, one of three startups working on 10GBase-T transceivers, is announcing a single 65nm CMOS chip that transmits 10G over copper up to 100 meters while consuming 5.5W. But the chip is just back from the fab and has not yet passed testing.

Competitors Aquantia and Teranetics may follow suit with similar products before the end of the year. I've yet to hear anything from established players such as Broadcom and Marvell. (If you know something, drop me a line at rbmerrit@cmp.com)

SolarFlare claims 10GBase-T switches, aggregation boxes and server cards are in the works, some of which will ship before the end of the year. But the Cisco comment makes me think the new crop of transceivers while major accomplishments in design still may not extend very far the reach of this emerging market.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Moving at 10G rates

I've been amazed to see how rapidly the broad group of companies backing Fibre Channel over Ethernet has been moving, given how much there is to do to create this converged data center network. But after some further digging yesterday I see progress is not quite as fast as their marketing departments would have us believe.

The first FCoE products released this week are still pre-standard and many are less than elegant. The reality is the real product wave will hit sometime early next year, as I reported last night.

Still, the FCoE group has been gaining momentum in monthly meetings. A separate CEE Authors group is trying to crank up the pace on the (notoriously slow) IEEE standards efforts.

I give special kudos to Cisco for driving in the diamond lane on this initiative. Their Nexus 5000 shows not only fast time-to-market with an ASIC-laden design but an innovative business approach with its spin-in of start-up Nuova Systems. This tactic, first tried with Andiamo, helped Cisco attract outside data center expertise it needed with people such as Ed Bugnion, the former CTO of VMware who is now Nuova's chief technology officer.

A tip of the hat from the Interconnects blog for the nice work by the folks in Little Italy up on San Jose's Tasman drive.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

FCoE party begins

My hat is off to the many people driving Fibre Channel over Ethernet. The breadth of support at the Storage Networking World event today was mind blowing considering the technology only hit the radar screen a few months ago. Several big companies are being fast and nimble on this one—particularly Cisco Systems which seems to be reprising its success with the Andiamo spin-in Nuova Systems.

But there's plenty here I do not yet understand. How will these folk roll with the punches when IEEE advanced Ethernet and T11 FCoE standards finally close? Can it all be handled in software?

Is it true as competitors say that Emulex and QLogic are doubling up with Ethernet, Fibre Channel (and glue logic) silicon all crowded on to their adapter cards? Sounds expensive.

Meanwhile, my 10GBase-T questions from last week remain unanswered. I understand two companies may be ready to talk about new and better transceivers, but I have heard precious little from giants Broadcom, Intel and Marvell on this issue.

Will there be a hangover after the party in Orlando?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

FCoE and 10GBase-T ASAP

Holy acronymity, Batman! No wonder this interconnect world drives me whacky sometimes. What's really scary is I actually know what this stuff means...and I want to learn more!

I have briefings coming up Monday on the latest and greatest in Fibre Channel over Ethernet and 10 Gbit/s Ethernet over copper. If you have any perspective, hot tips, leaks or heads ups about what you or others are doing in these spaces, please drop me a line at rbmerrit@cmp.com or post a comment here ASAP.

So if you have anything to say on these technologies, sling it now or plan to hold your peace for awhile.

BTW, sorry I have neglected this little plot of the blogosphere lately. I was on a two-week trip in Asia that ended with a quick tour to the MultiCore Expo and Ocean Tomo Spring auction. There's a lot on my plate these days—-check out the Intellectual Property Symposium--so I appreciate your bearing with me as I get to this little side interest of mine whenever I can.