Intel adds Gigabit Ethernet devices for PCs, servers

Expanding its line of networking products, Intel Corp. is announcing a series of Ethernet devices, including a Gigabit Ethernet controller for PCs and a 10 Gigabit Ethernet network interface card for servers.

The network interface card costs US$7,995 and is designed to connect LAN-based servers to corporate networks so they can run bandwidth-hungry applications such as imaging and data mirroring, said Tim Dunn, general manager of Intel's platform networking group.

But Eric Mantion, an analyst at In-Stat/MDR in Scottsdale, Ariz., said Intel's US$30 desktop Gigabit Ethernet controller deserves more attention than the server card does. The desktop device potentially could double data throughput in PCs, according to Mantion.

The controller "really will help to make the argument that Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop will work," Mantion said. "It's like jabbing a needle of adrenaline right to the heart."

The device, called the PRO/1000 CT Desktop Connection, takes Ethernet connections off the 32-bit Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus inside PCs, Dunn said. In laboratory tests, the controller increased throughput to 1,672M bit/sec., up from 928M bit/sec. with the PCI bus, Dunn noted. "It's a huge step forward for us," he said.

Samples of the Gigabit Ethernet controller are being shipped to PC makers for inclusion in systems that should be released before June, Intel said. The device works with the company's soon-to-be released Springdale and Canterwood chip sets, which are due to add support for hyperthreading technology, improved graphics and other new peripheral features to PCs.

The 10 Gigabit Ethernet interface card, known as the PRO/10GbE LR Server Adapter, is the first such device designed for servers, Dunn said. The technology previously was used to connect switches, primarily in supercomputing applications.

Those kinds of uses will still be supported. For example, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in Champaign, Ill., has been testing two of the interface cards on and off for six months as it gradually upgrades its internal network backbone to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, said Jon Dugan, a senior network engineer at the NCSA.

The cards have performed "fairly well," Dugan said, adding that they provided performance of up to 4G bit/sec. in a test that was run last year at the SuperComputing 2002 trade show in Baltimore. The NCSA will probably put the devices into full use within six to eight months to help the intrusion-detection software it uses snoop network links for suspicious traffic, he said.

Mantion said that the network interface card is "an impressive accomplishment for Intel but is not something that will fly off the shelf" because of continuing low demand for 10 Gigabit Ethernet technology. Taken as a whole, the new products show that networking is a "huge focus for Intel and not a hobby," he said.

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