Broadcom unveils PCI Express controller

Broadcom on Tuesday unveiled a server network controller with a PCI Express interface.

Broadcom has taken another step in delivering the next-generation server bus technology to network controllers.

The company announced the NetXtreme II BCM5708 Gigabit Ethernet controller, the first product in its NetXtreme II line to support PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) Express, at the Intel Developer Forum, in San Francisco.

PCI Express is the next-generation peripheral interconnect for servers, and it can deliver a significant speed boost from current PCI-X technology. The new specification can support as many as 16 "lanes," or sets of wires, for throughput as great as 16G bps (bits per second). On Monday, Marvell Semiconductor announced a server I/O chip and a controller with a 4-lane PCI Express interface.

The NetXtreme II BCM5708 also has a four-lane PCI Express interface, according to a Broadcom statement. It is the first PCI Express controller in the company's NetXtreme II line of C-NICs (converged network interface controllers.) The controllers feature chips with an integrated TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) offload engine, iSCSI and RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) on a single-chip platform. The C-NICs allow servers to simultaneously run network, storage and cluster traffic over an Ethernet network fabric because they offload networking tasks from the server's CPU, according to Broadcom.

The BCM5708 is the second generation of C-NIC silicon offerings from Broadcom and joins the current BCM5706, which has a PCI-X interface. Broadcom is already shipping PCI Express controllers in other product lines, a spokeswoman for the Irvine, California, company said.

The NetXtreme II line is intended for LOM (LAN on motherboard) implementations on blade, rack-mounted and tower servers as well as for standalone network controllers, according to Broadcom. The BCM5708 is now shipping in sample quantities and is expected to ship in volume in the first half of 2006, timed for availability along with Intel's upcoming Blackford chipset, the spokeswoman said. It will cost approximately US$35 per unit, she said.

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