PLX eNews – March 2012
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In this issue:
PLX's core portfolio PCI Express Gen3 products are perfectly aligned with the successful launch of the new Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600 product family (formerly codenamed Romley) that many server and storage manufacturers are preparing to deploy. The powerful new Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600 product family integrates the long-awaited, high-performance connectivity of the PCIe Gen3 standard supported by market-dominating PLX ExpressLane switches.
"PLX's PCI Express 3.0 switches are fundamental building blocks supporting Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600 product family platforms used in the new generation of data centers demanding superior performance," said Jim Pappas, director of technology initiatives, Intel Corporation. "PLX has been a long-time supporter of PCI Express, and its investment in PCI Express 3.0 switches is an important element for the advancement of this technology - they are a key contributor to the Xeon server ecosystem."
PCI Express Over Optical Cabling: Performance, Simplicity, and Efficiency (from Network World magazine)
Optical solutions can be a key enabler for network architects who see value in using PCI Express (PCIe) as an I/O technology for data center connectivity. Using PCIe to natively connect servers, switches and storage elements can lower overall system costs by reducing or eliminating the number of protocol conversions. Additionally, this increased system simplicity provides networks with latency, power and dollars-per-gigabit advantages.
By using optical cabling, nearly anything connected today using PCIe can now be connected remotely. This allows users to leverage the ubiquity of PCIe for several network-intensive uses, such as memory/disk system interconnects, high-end audio/video applications, high-performance computing, and multi-chassis system interconnects. (more)
PCI Express, or PCIe, is as ubiquitous as it is powerful - a high-speed serial interconnect deployed in virtually all segments of the technology landscape, and now delivering up to a whopping eight gigabits a second to everything from enterprise computing and data centers to networking equipment and consumer electronics. Initially a chip-to-chip interconnect to replace PCI and its parallel architecture - itself once ubiquitous - PCIe has evolved with a steady stream of expanded bus widths, increased frequencies, added features and an ever-broadening array of applications.
Perhaps it was just a matter of time before they found each other, but now PCIe and solid-state drive (SSD) technology are enjoying a lively, productive marriage. Like PCIe, SSDs have penetrated a wide variety of market segments - from the enterprise to the home - so the convergence of the two is logical. But to better understand this logic, a quick refresher on PCIe is in order.
A serial, differential, packet-based protocol, PCIe boasts countless features that enable designs' easy migration, high speeds and widespread applicability, while providing a dependable path to future performance gains. PCIe is fully backward-compatible with software and applications developed for boards and systems based on earlier generations of PCIe. Gen1-2.5 giga-transfers per second (GT/s) - gave way to Gen2 and its enhanced 5.0GT/s speeds. Now, Gen3 and its 8GT/s is the standard shipping today, and thanks to switches from vendors such as PLX, being designed into a range of high-performance uses including servers, gaming, storage systems and expansion boxes. (The PCI Special Interest Group is already discussing 16GT/s - not surprisingly termed Gen4). (more)
Data Center providers are looking at new ways of re-architecting Data Centers and at the same time leverage existing. PCI Express has been rapidly evolving and is poised to make inroads into host-to-host connectivity and shared IO. PCI Express based switching solutions based on 8 Gbps per lane are available and shipping today. This presentation will discuss how PCI Express can be leveraged today for rack connectivity within a data center and provide shared IO access to provide gateway functions to Ethernet and Storage networks.
The Marvell video demonstrates the performance of Marvell's SSD controllers, enabled by PLX PCIe switches, in an enterprise storage application. Aggregate performance of four SSD Million IO Per Second (MIOPS) reaches an astounding 2.5 million IOPs (4K random reads). Four Marvell MIOPS cards are aggregated through a PLX PEX8696 multi-host PCIe Gen2 switch (96 lanes, 24 ports) housed on a PLX I/O expansion module. This PLX multi-host feature allows the switch to be partitioned in half with data streaming to and from multiple servers, thus reducing cost by eliminating the need for a second switch. Exclusive PLX PCIe x16 port-to-server support offers 16GB/s data transfer capacity in each direction. Each Marvell MIOPS card has eight flash controllers aggregated by a PLX PEX8618 PCIe switch (16 lanes, 16 ports). Marvell's four MIOPS cards aggregate 1TB of NAND storage. Watch the video.
PLX has been working with Avago on this platform to highlight PCIe over optical. The demonstration delivers on the PCIe Gen3 promise of plug-and-play with no special software, highlighting the data center readiness and ubiquity of PCIe. Avago high-density MiniPOD parallel fiber optic modules, enabled by PLX PCIe Gen3 switches, extend traffic box-to-box for 30 meters with amazing x8 connectivity at 64Gbps. This performance alone challenges all other connectivity choices by eliminating the complicated, latency-ridden conversion of standards. New Gen3 devices are rapidly entering the market to take advantage of this performance, as shown in this five-bay expansion card demonstration. Watch the video.
10 Gigabit LOM is finally here! As part of the Intel Xeon processor E5 product family launch, Intel announced Ethernet Controller X540. The Intel Ethernet Controller X540 is the industry's first fully integrated 10GBASE-T controller and was designed specifically for low-cost, low-power 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) LAN on motherboard (LOM) and converged network adapter (CNA) designs.
With the Intel Ethernet Controller X540, Intel is delivering on its commitment to drive down the costs of 10GbE. Intel integrated the media access controller (MAC) and physical layer (PHY) controller into a single chip. The result is a dual-port 10GBASE-T controller that's not only cost-effective, but also energy-efficient and small enough to be included on mainstream server motherboards. Several server OEMs are already lined up to offer Intel Ethernet Controller X540-based LOM connections for their Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 product family-based servers. This new controller also powers the Intel® Ethernet Converged Network Adapter X540, a PCI Express adapter for rack and tower servers. (more)
While it may be so that good things come to those who wait, too much waiting can lead to uncertainty. Take 10GBase-T networking products, for example. The 10GBase-T Standard published almost six years ago and the long wait for network gear has provided fodder for the digital rumor mill to churn. This had led to the completely erroneous misperception that 10GBase-T is the end of the line for copper balanced twisted-pair media and network equipment. The fact is that the extended time to market can be explained by the recent economic recession and the desire to integrate significant power efficiency enhancements into this new technology. These challenges have been overcome and all indicators are that adoption of 10GBase-T solutions is poised to take off in 2012.
This paper presents the truths behind the myths surrounding 10GBase-T and the future of copper twisted-pair Ethernet applications. Co-authored by experts at PLX and Siemon.
Ethernet at 10G speeds has arrived! The growing importance of cloud computing and the increasing utilization of unified data/storage connectivity and server virtualization by enterprise data centers, have conspired to elevate the importance and popularity of 10Gbps Ethernet. Not long ago considered an exotic connectivity option relegated to high-capacity backhaul, more and more applications are taking advantage of the availability and cost-effectiveness of 10GE links. As was the case with three prior generations of Ethernet, the ubiquity, the ready and familiar management tools, and the compelling cost structure are allowing 10G Ethernet (10GE) to quickly dominate the computer networking scene.
10GBase-T technology was designed to provide a backwards-compatible, incremental upgrade for 10Gbps Ethernet, and minimize the disruption that a transition to 10Gbps speed could mean with other interconnection technologies. This focus on easy-transition shows up in everything from support for 100 and 1000Base-T interconnects, to architecturally enabling larger, simplified management domains, to reuse of existing cabling practices. (read more)
Note: Part II of this article will explore 10GBase-T technology at a deeper level, and how its deployment is revolutionizing data centers.
This paper was co-authored by Ron Cates and George Zimmerman.
PLX was selected as chairperson of the Ethernet Chipsets and Components track at the recent Ethernet Technology Summit, held in San Jose, Calif. PLX also presented this paper at the event titled "Low-Power Efficiency in 10GBase-T Silicon," which describes how industry advances in chip technology have rapidly brought down per-port power consumption, making 10GBase-T not only attractive to the data center but now a vital purchasing consideration. Cable length dependent adaptive power dissipation, Wake-on-LAN, and Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE), among other key features, play an important role in today's designs that are leading to the fast ramp-up of 10GBase-T in the data center.
PLX will host special live demonstrations of its 10GBase-T PHY products at the upcoming INTEROP conference in Las Vegas, May 7-10. Schedule an appointment with a PLX expert or just stop by our booth and engage with the PHY team.
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