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Sun Goes National for Network Chip

If the computer is the network, than Sun Microsystems says it is investing in better ways of connecting its hardware.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker Monday inked a deal with National Semiconductor to help it build a high-performance, mixed-signal networking chip. The processor would be used in Sun's GigaSwift Ethernet product line and end up in the next generation of Sun's adaptors, blade servers and other networking gear. The chip is a combination of National's Gigabit Ethernet physical layer (PHY), the company's GigPHYTER core, and Sun's Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) controller.

"This new networking chip provides complete compatibility with the Solaris operating system," Raju Penumatcha, Sun senior director said in a statement. "Because of Sun's work with National Semiconductor, we can integrate this chip into our products without having to worry about software compatibility or driver reliability issues."

Sun's GigaSwift Ethernet adapter line now features Jumbo Frames and Sun Trunking 1.3 support, as well as other enhancements to reduce system processing overhead.

The choice to go with National Semi is a shift in philosophy for Sun. The company traditionally builds its own media access controls (MAC) as a value add. The partnership is the latest in a series of collaborations by Sun with semiconductor manufacturers to help bring down the cost of its hardware. Last November, Sun announced it partnership with AMD to bolster its volume server family. Sun uses Texas Instruments for its own SPARC and UltraSPARC server chips and purchases Intel chips for its non-AMD x86 compatible servers.

The single-port GigE controller will be developed using the 0.18-micron process at National's fabrication plant in South Portland, Maine, according to National Semi.

"Our experience with analog building blocks and mixed-signal integration allowed us to help Sun produce a high-performance solution that reduces power consumption and system costs for Sun's customers," National Semiconductor vice president of PC and Networking Group Mike Noonen said in a statement.