IBM this week detailed features of a new chip aimed at e-commerce applications that the company believes sets the stage for the development of low-cost networks that can be easily programmed for either higher or lower bandwidth.
The new chip - which replaces a range of different chips now used with a range of networking products, such as routers and hubs - reportedly supports as many as 65,000 network connections simultaneously, company officials said.
The new chip's system-on-a-chip approach is well suited to managing the large volumes of data needed for many of the newly emerging multimedia and teleconferencing applications, company officials said.
Driving the development of the chip, in part, is that for the first time the amount of data traffic on networks has surpassed the amount of voice traffic, which largely accounts for rapid growth in network computing and a strain being placed on networking equipment.
"Data and video communications are beginning to dominate network traffic, requiring large volumes of bandwidth," said Ken Kellow, a senior marketing manager for communication products at IBM's Microelectronics division.
The new resource management chip, which supports ATM, essentially serves as a traffic cop. It has the capability to partition bandwidth for thousands of network connections for a server, a switch, a network node, and user-based applications, company officials said.
By enabling thousands of independent connections across a network, systems can be designed from the ground up to include many fewer chips than existing networking products.
The chip was initially used to enhance the memory capabilities of IBM's AS/400 servers. However, the new version supplies an onboard PowerPC core for available bit-rate support, which allows users to define bandwidth for a given transaction over the network.
Other technical features of the chip include an integrated PCI bus interface with programmable burst length; two independent memory controllers, each one of which supports as much as 128Mb of memory; and three direct-memory access channels with host memory cut through, company officials said.
The chip is available now in the US, local pricing and availability are not yet available.