Linley Wire: August 19, 2015

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Linley Wire
Volume 15, Issue 13
August 19, 2015

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Independent Analysis of the Networking-Silicon Industry

Editor: Bob Wheeler
Contributors: Jag Bolaria, Loring Wirbel, Bob Wheeler

In This Issue:

- Broadcom Connects Cloud Servers
- 25G Ethernet Draft Moves to Ballot
- ODP Standardizes Networking API

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Broadcom Connects Cloud Servers
By Bob Wheeler

Ten months after announcing its Tomahawk switch for 25G, 50G, and 100G Ethernet, Broadcom has begun sampling 25G and 50G Ethernet adapters (NICs) and controllers for the server end of the wire. The new NetXtreme C-Series products target cloud data centers, which have different requirements than the enterprise data centers that Broadcom’s divested NetXtreme II line serves. In addition to handling the new Ethernet speeds, the C-Series products implement virtual-switch (vSwitch) offloads and other advanced features in hardware.

The new family is built around the BCM57300 controller chip, which handles two 10G/25G Ethernet ports or a single 40G/50G Ethernet port. It implements a PCI Express (PCIe) Gen3 x8 host interface with I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) support. The chip dissipates less than 5W (typical) at 50Gbps and comes in a 14mm FCBGA, which is smaller than the leading 10G Ethernet controllers. Broadcom is offering a range of BCM57300-based adapters for 10G, 25G, 40G, and 50G Ethernet speeds, as well as in both standard PCIe NIC and Open Compute Project (OCP) mezzanine form factors.

What sets the BCM57300 apart from other Ethernet controller designs is a flow- processing engine dubbed TruFlow. This hardware engine enables advanced features including vSwitch offload and policy/rule scaling. These capabilities were previously available only in intelligent NICs based on software-programmable processors.

The NetXtreme C-Series faces direct competition from Mellanox, which is the only other vendor with an announced 25/50G Ethernet NIC line. Although QLogic’s forthcoming cLOM8514 handles 25G Ethernet, it is designed for 100G Ethernet and will likely be too costly and power hungry for lower-speed applications. Broadcom’s new family stands out by combining small size, low power, and advanced features.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

25G Ethernet Draft Moves to Ballot
By Loring Wirbel

The IEEE’s 802.3by task force for 25Gbps Ethernet approved a draft standard at its July meeting for a vote by the full 802.3 membership. The task force voted in a straw poll to consider a special new option for utilizing 3-meter cable assemblies in implementations without forward error correction. The 3m cabling with no-FEC option is not a formal part of the draft, but will be finalized in an interim draft if there is consensus to do so prior to an IEEE-wide vote.

Draft 2.0 is the ballot document presented to the 802.3 working group, after creation of several Draft 1.x proposals discussed within the task force. It will be followed by a sponsor draft open to voting by all IEEE members. The vote on 802.3by comes as support is growing within 802.3 for a separate task force on 50Gbps Ethernet. While 50-Gbps links can be implemented in dual 25-Gbps lanes specified in 802.3by, many members see the arrival of new 50Gbps serdes technology as justifying an independent standard.

The 25G Ethernet Consortium, the coalition that prodded the IEEE a year ago to consider the new data rates, pushed explicitly for dual standards. Even though many members of this consortium supported the dual standards of 40Gbps and 100Gbps when the High Speed Study Group formed in 2007, members active in the data center see 40Gbps links falling into disfavor as switches and servers adopt building blocks based on 10Gbps, 25 Gbps, and 50 Gbps links.

The draft standard borrows heavily from the 802.3bj (100GBase-CR4) standard for four-lane 100Gbps Ethernet using 25Gbps channels. The task force’s choice reflected a desire to have a single-lane full-duplex 25Gbps standard that offered the most interoperability with additional Ethernet speeds, and across 25Gbps implementations for backplanes, twinax copper, and multimode fiber.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

ODP Standardizes Networking API
By Jag Bolaria

The OpenDataPlane (ODP) project aims to do for networking what OpenGL did for graphics. It enables customers to port data-plane software between different platforms independent of the processor architecture and integration level. Although ODP started in the open-source Linaro organization, which was founded to promote Linux on ARM, it targets any processor. Architectures that have an ODP implementation include ARM, MIPS, MPAA (Kalray), Power, Tilera (EZchip), and x86.

ODP provides a common open-source API for data-plane applications across networking SoCs from different vendors. These applications typically run in Linux user space, so the LNG targets the Linux operating system. Developers, however, can use other operating systems, virtualization (hypervisors), or “bare-metal” platforms, which networking-equipment vendors often prefer to extract the best performance. By matching the number of cores to the application threads, software developers can reduce Linux overhead and achieve performance similar to that of bare-metal systems.

In an era when end customers want white boxes and abhor vendor lock-in, an API that promises application portability and the ability to move workloads among vendors has great appeal. It also enables more networking-SoC vendors to compete. Thanks to broad support and practically no competitors, ODP’s adoption is assured.

Because ODP APIs do not specify function implementations, performance will vary from one platform to another. Portability may become more a proof of operation for an application on a new platform rather than just recompile and move to a new ISA and SoC. Most customers will still achieve maximum performance by optimizing their application for the underlying hardware accelerators and architecture.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

About Linley Wire

Linley Wire is a free electronic newsletter published by The Linley Group, a technology analysis and strategic consulting firm. Linley Wire will present our analysis of recent news on semiconductors for networking and communications. Articles are posted weekly to our web site and sent monthly via email. To access the web content directly, visit our web site.

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Domain: Electronics
Category: IT

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