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Mellanox forges fun-sized 40Gb/sec Ethernet switch

Delisting from Tel Aviv exchange to cut costs, sticking with NASDAQ

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Mellanox Technologies is trying to milk its switch-hitting, hybrid Ethernet-InfiniBand SwitchX-2 chips for every dollar possible, and has just cooked up a baby switch that can run at 40Gb/sec or 56Gb/sec using the Ethernet protocol.

The SX1012 is a half-width switch that has a dozen ports in a 1U rack form factor, which means you can cram two of them side-by-side in the space that a regular 24-port switch might take up. So you can now have redundant switches for failover and multipathing between the access layer and server nodes without having to buy a pair of port-laden switches.

"This is going to be a very popular switch for Oracle RAC and other distributed databases, as well as for Hadoop proofs of concept and storage clusters," Amit Katz, director of product management at Mellanox, tells El Reg.

The dozen ports on the SX1012 are rated to run at 40Gb/sec speeds, but with a golden screwdriver upgrade, the SwitchX-2 chip, which supports Fourteen Data Rate (FDR) InfiniBand running at 56Gb/sec, can be convinced to speak Ethernet at that faster 56Gb/sec speeds.

Technically, there should be a way to make it speak InfiniBand on the fly, as the SwitchX-2 chip is designed to do, but as yet Mellanox has not activated this functionality in any of its Ethernet switches. Ditto for making InfiniBand switches speak Ethernet on the fly.

The fun-sized sx1012 Ethernet switch from Mellanox

The fun-sized sx1012 Ethernet switch from Mellanox

The SwitchX-2 ASIC in the SX1012 offers 1.3Tb/sec of aggregate switching bandwidth across its ports, and the port-to-port hop latency on the SX1012 is 220 nanoseconds for ports running at 40Gb/sec speeds using QSFP cables.

You can also use one-to-four QSFP cable splitters to convert each 40GE port into four 10GE ports, turning it into a 48-port switch. If you do that, however, the port-to-port latency across those splitter cables and an adjacent port in the switch rises a bit to 280 nanoseconds. In many cases, customers will want to have 40 ports running at 10Gb/sec speeds and leave two ports running at 40Gb/sec for uplinks.

The switch burns under 100 watts when it's loaded up, and comes with variants for forward or reverse airflow so you can orient it in the front or the back server racks without messing up your hot and cold aisles in the data center.

The SX1012 runs the MLNX-OS network operating system like other Mellanox switches, and will be available in August at an estimated street price of $6,000, or about $500 per 40Gb/sec port. That's a little bit pricey compared to the SX1036, which has 2.88Tb/sec of switching bandwidth and 36 ports running at the 40Gb/sec-56Gb/sec speeds and which costs $14,575 on the street according to Katz. That is a little bit more than $400 per port.

As is often the case in the IT racket, a smaller device carries a per-unit-of-capacity premium, but that smaller device requires less of a capital outlay.

In a separate announcement, Mellanox has told the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that it no longer wants to trade its shares there. Mellanox has dual headquarters in Sunnyvale, California and Yokneam, Israel, and has been trading its shares on the TASE as well as on the NASDAQ in New York. The delisting from the TASE is expected to take about three months or so, and will enable Mellanox to have one set of reporting requirements instead of two, and therefore cut out some hassle and costs. ®

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