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10GBase-T server NICs go on sale

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The first 10Gig PCI-Express cards for the new 10GBase-T Ethernet standard are out, even though there's not yet any commercially-available switches to connect them to.

Chelsio Communications said its two new server adapters feature a single dual-speed 10Gig port and the company's T3 hardware accelerator, which offloads the host server by shifting all the TCP/IP network protocol processing - up to and including iSCSI - onto the card. The iSCSI-capable S310e-BT and the more basic N310e-BT are priced at $1995 and $1295 respectively.

By comparison, the TN7588 from Tehuti Networks includes a hardware-assist chip that works with its host server's TCP/IP stack to partially offload the server. It is available in single and dual-port versions.

Tehuti claimed that, compared to the TCP offload engine (TOE) approach used by Chelsio and others, its approach provides "nearly-equivalent performance" but is simpler to implement, costs less and consumes less power. It did not quote pricing for the TN7588, however.

Neither of the two companies is shipping in volume yet, but both say they are delivering samples now to OEMs such as server builders. Tehuti added that its card, which it will demo at the BICSI 2007 cabling conference in Orlando next week, is intended not as a commercial product but as a reference design for network adapter manufacturers to work with.

Until now, 10Gig Ethernet has all been fibre-optic or CX4 short-range (15m) copper. 10GBase-T should run up to 56m over CAT-6 or 100m over CAT-7 copper twisted-pair cabling, and the industry hopes it will give 10Gig a big boost, just as the ability to run over copper twisted-pair kicked Gigabit Ethernet sales into high gear.

"All the OEMs are designing 10Gig into servers," said Chelsio boss Kianoosh Naghshineh. "We will begin shipping 10GBase-T in March and we will see switches this quarter too - they're imminent."

He added that the big challenge is still power consumption, and said Chelsio had to reduce the range of its cards in order to keep them below the 25W limit of a PCI-Express slot.

"We dialled it down for 35m to 50m range," he said. "Maybe the next generation of cards will extend it to 100m - the mega-volumes will happen when the power comes down."®

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