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Broadcom Airs Ethernet Components for Blade Servers

Broadcom Monday unmasked new networking components it says will catapult blade server technology into the next generation -- where 10 gigabit Ethernet looms large.

The Irvine, Calif. networking chipmaker brought new ServerWorks System I/O server core-logic chipsets, gigabit Ethernet controllers, gigabit and Fast Ethernet transceivers, high-speed SerDes devices for backplanes and gigabit and Fast Ethernet switches to the table to help blade server original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as IBM, HP and Dell prepare for "next-generation blade server designs," according to Broadcom Product Line Manager Allen Light.

Light told internetnews.com previous blade incarnations were focused on "ultra-density" and were far more messy and cumbersome with regards to the amount of fabric involved. Light also said previous blade architectures lack the computing power to power enterprise-class systems.

As the main go-to firm for blade server components (Broadcom competes with Intel in this space), Broadcom aims to change all of that -- not with InfiniBand technology, which Light said it considers dead, but with Ethernet technologies, particularly with respect to the speedy 10 gigabit Ethernet transmissions.

Gartner analyst Joe Byrne said the fact that Broadcom is being supported by so many major OEMs in this endeavor demonstrates its attractiveness. "There is a lot of innovation taking place in this area," Byrne told internetnews.com. Byrne was also disinclined to write off InfiniBand as a dead technology.

Light explained that Broadcom's approach is to attract OEMs by employing SerDes physical layer technology within gigabit Ethernet controllers and switches, which yields lower power, lower cost designs, higher density and smaller physical board space. Ethernet technology, Light argued, enables smoother integration of the server into the rest of the network than Infiniband or other standards.

If OEMs are interested, Broadcom is also offering an upgrade path to its blade server roadmap that includes more advancements in Ethernet technology and the integration of performance-enhancing features such as 10-Gigabit TOE (TCP/IP Offload Engine). 10-G Ethernet, Light claimed, is where the future is for blade servers.

As for Broadcom's products, the firm's purchase of ServerWorks, with its Grand Champion chipset family, is a key aspect of the company's attractiveness to blade server OEMs: the chipsets are designed to handle large amounts of I/O bandwidth.

Broadcom's gigabit Ethernet controllers allow its customers to qualify one driver family across a broad range of products, from high performance enterprise servers down to desktop clients. Broadcom's gigabit and Fast Ethernet switches connect the various server blades together within the blade server chassis and are provided as a complete family of switch ASICs (Application-Specific ICs) for any blade server design.

Broadcom also manufactures gigabit Ethernet transceivers that offer error-free operation over existing Category-5 cabling infrastructures, which are found in most corporate networks today.