Vendors push gear that runs 10G over Cat6 copper

10GBase-T server adapters announced by vendors Chelsio and Tehuti

A trio of lesser-known LAN gear vendors launched 10G Ethernet products this week that break new ground in product categories and could signal more advances to come from the LAN industry.

Chelsio and Tehuti both announced they had the industry's first 10GBase-T server adapters -- which run 10Gbps of Ethernet over Category 6 or 7 copper cabling. The companies' press releases both hit Thursday, although neither expect to ship products until at least March. Meanwhile, Blade Network Technologies claimed it has the first 10G Ethernet switch module for a blade server chassis.

The Chelsio product is a single-port 10GBase-T server adapter, which the company says supports a full-duplex 10G Ethernet in standard PCI-Express bus systems. The card can also autosense a Gigabit Ethernet link, and operate at 1000Base-T. Tehuti is offering a dual-port 10GBase-T NIC. Both products are based on the IEEE 802.3an standard for 10G Ethernet over twisted-pair copper cabling, which was ratified as a standard in September 2006.

Part of the reason 10GBase-T products are just emerging now is due to the high power requirements for 10GBase-T NICs, says Kianoosh Naghshineh, CEO of Chelsio.

The NIC Chelsio developed requires just under 25 watts of power; over 25 watts would require an additional electrical feed to power the NIC, instead of drawing power from the computer's PCI-Express slot.

"Admittedly, this is bleeding edge, and not something we'll [ship] in huge volumes" at the beginning, Naghshinehsays, adding that Chelsio says it will sell its NICs exclusively to server makers. He also says that future revision plans of the product aim to get the wattage down to around 15 to 10 watts, which will run cooler and drain less power from a server's power supply.

The other issue with 10GBase-T NICs, as of this moment, is that no LAN switches exist for these NICs to plug into. However, Chelsio's Naghshineh says users "there will be switches forthcoming this quarter" from major LAN switch vendors, whom he would not name. Besides 10GBase-T, the NIC also supports TCP/IP packet process offloading, iSCSI for storage-over-IP/Ethernet links, and iWARP RDMA -- Ethernet-based remote direct memory access, which ties network pipes closer to a servers RAM for better performance.

For now, the dual-speed 1000/10000Mbps capability in the NIC could allow users to have 10GBase-T in place, but use 1000Base-T in the meantime. Chelsio's dual-speed 10GBase-T NIC is priced at US$2,000.

Tehuti, which did not announce pricing for its 10GBase-T NIC, also announced a dual-port 10GBase-CX4 card -- based on the previously-released coaxial copper standard for 10G Ethernet -- which is priced at US$500.

On the server side of 10G, Blade Network Technologies says it has the first 10G Ethernet switch module for blade servers, with a 20-port, fiber-based 10G Ethernet blade for the IBM BladeCenter H and HT systems. The card, built on Nortel-based Layer 2/3 switch technology, can provide six 10G Ethernet uplinks ports for server modules in an IBM BladeCenter chassis, and 14 downlink connections, the company says. The product will be available from IBM in February for US$9,800.

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