IBM details new PowerPC networking chip

IBM on Tuesday will detail at the Embedded Processor Forum a new entry in its PowerPC networking chip line that will include Gigabit Ethernet support backed up with hardware assistance for fast TCP/IP processing.

The IBM PowerPC 440GX takes off where the PowerPC 440GP introduced earlier this year leaves off, according to Kalpesh Gala, product marketing manager at IBM. The 440GX can support up to four 10/100M bps (bit-per-second) Ethernet interfaces or two 10/100/1000M bps connections.

The 440GX can be configured to perform a variety of roles in several kinds of end products, such as SAN (storage area network) devices, network interfaces in servers and small-office Internet gateways, Gala said. It is expected to begin shipping in sample quantities in the fourth quarter and in system products next year.

Armonk, New York-based IBM will detail the 440GX in a presentation Tuesday afternoon at the conference, in San Jose, California.

A built-in TCP/IP acceleration engine offloads packet processing from the main part of the chip, allowing the 440GX to handle higher throughput while still performing advanced functions.

"With the assisting engine on, you recover more than 50 percent of the processor cycles," Gala said.

The processor may be used in conjunction with a network processing unit (NPU) to take care of system management tasks and the processing of packets that require extra work. In lower speed devices, such as a gateway in a small business, the 440GX might be the main processor for routing and other functions. In a data center, it can support the iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) standard, including IPSec (IP Security) encryption, in devices that link storage to other network elements, Gala said.

The processor also includes a 256K-byte block of on-chip software-controlled SRAM (static RAM) that can hold Ethernet descriptor information, such as information used to set up ports. In a small gateway device, the cache could hold the necessary routing tables, Gala said. In each case, putting that data in the cache allows for faster performance.

The 440GX will be manufactured using a 0.13-micron copper process technology and designed to enable customer-specific derivative products, according to IBM.

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