Linley Wire: January 14, 2015

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Linley Wire

Volume 15, Issue 2

January 14, 2015

Please feel free to forward this to your colleagues

Independent Analysis of the Networking-Silicon Industry

Editor: Bob Wheeler

Contributor: Loring Wirbel and Bob Wheeler

In This Issue:

- Year in Review: Data-Center Networks Outpace Others

- Packet Architects Synthesizes Switches

- Mellanox Brings 100Gbps to Servers

Linley Data Center Conference: February 25-26

Free Admission for Qualified Attendees

Don't miss the Linley Data Center Conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Santa Clara on February 25-26. This event features technical presentations and panel discussions focusing on processors, components, and interconnects for data-center networking and servers. Attendees also get the opportunity to meet with industry leaders and The Linley Group's analysts, to network with peers, attend an evening reception with sponsor exhibits and demos, and more. Data centers are evolving rapidly, so get the information you need to keep up with the latest technologies and how they will influence your next design.

Admission is free to qualified attendees who register online by February 19. The conference is intended for network-equipment vendors, server OEMs, system designers, network service providers, enterprise-network managers, software developers, press, and the financial community. For more information about the program and to register, visit our web site:

Year in Review: Data-Center Networks Outpace Others

By Bob Wheeler

Call them laggards, but networking-silicon vendors have been slow to adopt new process technologies. In particular, vendors of standard products (ASSPs) have been happily shipping 40nm and even 65nm chips. FPGA vendors, however, are addressing networking designs with cutting-edge technology. On both fronts, 2014 saw waves of new products that moved to the next node or to a new foundry. For ASSPs, it was the year of 28nm, led by Ethernet switches and PHYs. Xilinx shipped its first 20nm-generation (UltraScale) FPGAs. Intel made an impact as a foundry and ASIC vendor, with two customers shipping devices using its 22nm FinFET technology.

The high growth rate and rapid technology innovation of data centers were behind some of the most exciting new 28nm silicon. Many vendors upgraded their Ethernet client (NIC) offerings in conjunction with Intel’s 3Q14 Grantley server launch. Mellanox, which was early with 40G Ethernet NICs, saw a huge volume ramp at the end of 2014. But industry efforts to standardize 25G and 50G Ethernet overshadowed the ramp of 40GbE. Broadcom’s Tomahawk grabbed the spotlight as the first high-density 100GbE switch to reach sampling, and the 28nm chip also enables 25G/50G Ethernet ports.

Although the enterprise networking market has been stagnant, faster Wi-Fi speeds and 10G Ethernet caused some much needed activity. Delivering speeds greater than 1Gbps, 802.11ac Wave 2 access points drive the need for faster Ethernet connections but also compete with Ethernet client access. The industry responded with new products that enable 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps Ethernet rates over twisted pair (UTP), as well as low-cost 10GbE switch chips suitable for SMB, all built in 28nm technology.

Intel will be the vendor to watch in 2015 as it introduces several new products targeting data centers. These offerings should include new Ethernet switch chips, a new low-latency 100Gbps fabric, and related fiber-optic products using silicon photonics.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

Packet Architects Synthesizes Switches

By Loring Wirbel

Packet Architects of Sweden has developed a high-level synthesis tool paired with a configurable switch intellectual-property (IP) core. The FlexSwitch IP targets FPGAs, but the company is examining ASIC and SoC opportunities as well. Xilinx has worked with the company on a reference design, but it already has in-house synthesis tools. As a result, users of the Packet Architects C (PAC) synthesis tool chain may be limited to Altera and one or two high-performance-FPGA startups.

To date, FlexSwitch interoperates with both the Altera and Xilinx design suites. Packet Architects is also working with FiberBlaze, a company that builds high-speed network equipment using FPGAs, to demonstrate an 8x10GbE switch. This reference design has been validated using test equipment from Xena Networks and can achieve wire speed for all packet sizes without suffering packet loss.

The FPGA IP that Packet Architects designed for midrange performance is a Layer 2 Ethernet switch that delivers up to 80Gbps of throughput. The company’s 8x10GbE reference design is based on a Xilinx Virtex-6 device (690T) and uses substantially less than half of the FPGA’s logic, leaving room for additional functions. Packet Architects is also working on ASIC designs that scale to 1Tbps. The synthesis tool is process independent, and the company says the designs are competitive with the latest Broadcom and Cavium offerings in advanced silicon-technology nodes.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

Mellanox Brings 100Gbps to Servers

By Loring Wirbel

Mellanox recently introduced single- and dual-port ConnectX-4 host channel adapters that support InfiniBand (IB) and Ethernet protocols to 100Gbps. They are based on the company’s Virtual Protocol Interconnect technology for converged IB/Ethernet environments. The ConnectX-4 package also includes advanced software for configurable networking hierarchies, including RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE, pronounced “rocky”) v1 and v2 and the new InfiniBand Dynamically Connected Transport (DCT).

The card can process 150 million messages per second with typical latencies of 0.7 microseconds. ConnectX-4 is intended to serve in any IB or Ethernet hierarchy, handling speeds of 10Gbps, 20Gbps, 25Gbps, 40Gbps, 50Gbps, 56Gbps, and 100Gbps. The card’s main applications include I/O Virtualization and virtualized overlay networks based on such encapsulations as VXLAN, NVGRE, Geneve, and MPLS. The single-chip ConnectX-4 VPI and ConnectX-4 EN controller ICs launched simultaneously with the PCIe card, offering a mix of 100Gbps and lower-speed connectivity, all based on a PCIe Gen3 x16 host interface.

Although ConnectX-4 is a natural follow-on to ConnectIB (IB only) and ConnectX-3 Pro (multiprotocol) for 56Gbps FDR, Mellanox’s transition strategy for Ethernet customers still must take into account existing users of 10Gbps and 40Gbps products. The company says it is succeeding in 40Gbps Ethernet adapter markets, but it also emphasizes the enhanced L3 routing capabilities and greater performance that ConnectX-4 gains from the mix of 100Gbps ports and RoCE v2 enhancements.

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.

Domain: Electronics
Category: IT

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