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Solarflare claims integrated 10GBASE-T LOMs first

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Updated Fabless chip-design house Solarflare Communications is today expected to announce what it claims are the first integrated 10GBASE-T LAN-on-motherboard (LOM) controllers.

The key word here is "integrated." Last November, Mellanox announced its ConnectX ENt 10GBASE-T LOM. That part, however, is a two-element package that incorporates a 10GBASE-T PHY from Teranetics.

Bruce Tolley, Solarflare's vice president of corporate marketing, told The Reg that the advantages of an integrated part are "space and power" plus "plain old dollars and cents."

Solarflare claims that the new LOMs consume less than half the power of competing parts, providing a measureable advantage to OEMs building servers constrained by low power and cooling budgets.

The two 10GBASE-T LOMs are two-thirds of today's Solarflare announcement. The Solarstorm SFL9022 dual-port LOM and Solarstorm SFL9021 single-port LOM are joined by the the Solarstorm SFC9020 dual-port controller.

Solarflare's performance claims are impressive: sub-6 microsecond latency, 37Gbps aggregate bandwidth, ten times the number of virtual machines and vNICs as "leading" - but unnamed - competitors, and triple-speed (100M/1G/10G) auto-negotiation.

This last capability is important, according to Tolley, because the PCI SIG spec supports Wake-on-LAN (WON) only at 100Mbps speeds. Also, idling at 100Mbps waiting for a WON "magic packet" is a power-saver when compared with controllers that bottom out at 1Gbps.

Tolley also told us that the Solarstorm LOMs will support standard RJ45-connected CAT5e to 45 or 50 meters, and CAT6 to a 100 meters. He didn't offer any distance specs for CAT6a.

When we asked about any OEM design wins the SFC9000 series has garnered, Tolley demurred, saying only that "OEMs are very cagey." He did offer, however, that Solarflare has talked with Dell, and that both DNI of Taiwan and Acton of Massachusetts are company partners.

As we reported back in May, 10GbE is rapidly finding favor in datacenters. As Jason Waxman, Intel's General Manager of High-Density Computing, told us at that time: "Datacenters are transitioning to 10GbE technology to meet the explosive data requirements of today's networks."

With OEMs gaining the ability to equip their motherboards with power-efficient 10GBASE-T LOMs, and with prices dropping on 10GBASE-T switches, the adoption rate will almost certainly increase.

Solarflare predicts that the market for 10GbE server and storage connectivity will approach $1.2bn by 2013, with a hefty $400m of that accounted for by LOMs.

According to a Solarflare spokeswoman, the SFC9000 series is currently sampling and the company expects to be shipping production-ready products by the end of this year. Evaluation platforms for each controller in the SFC9000 series will include a complete driver set and will be available for $999. ®

Update

An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to the SFC9000 series as having a 6-millisecond latency, and not the correct 6-microsecond latency. We apologize 1,000 times for the 1,000-times error.

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