Sun Pushes 10GbE to the Limit

Newly launched division for silicon licensing inks major deal with Marvell as Sun takes aim at Ethernet speed.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Apr 6, 2007
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The 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) networking standard promises great speed in data transfer rates. Too bad it hasn't been as easy to take advantage of its 1 gigabit per second rates.

Sun Microsystems is hoping to change that with a new breed of multi-threaded 10 GbE networking technology that aims to take full advantage of the bandwidth that 10GbE offers. The goal, Sun said, is to provide full 10 GbE line rate wire speed from the network interface all the way to the processing port.

"If people continue to use the traditional networking interface, which is based on a single thread mindset, you've got a bottleneck," David Yen, EVP for Sun Microelectronics explained to internetnews.com. "As part of our supercomputing effort, we started to think about how to widen the lane. Rather than single channel, we want a multi-lane highway in each direction so that we have very smooth data flow from the network into the processor."

Sun is so confident that it's got a winner with its 10 GbE technology that it has set up a separate division to handle the intellectual property related to it. And it's lined up semiconductor giant Marvell Technology Group, which plans to license the technology in order to develop its own network interface cards (NICs) and application-specific integrated circuit (ASICs).

Marvell will also work with Sun on future innovations related to the multi-threaded 10 GbE technology and on future Ethernet standards such as 100 GbE, as they emerge.

The new, multi-threaded 10 GbE networking technology puts Sun at the forefront of networking technology and could ultimately lead to high stakes showdown or partnership with the current 10GbE industry leader, Cisco Systems.

Yen declined to comment on financial terms with Marvell but said the deal is not exclusive and that Sun will market the technology to others. The multi-threaded 10 GbE technology is also expected to be integrated directly into Sun's upcoming Niagara 2 chip.

"If it's just for Marvell, we wouldn't have gone through the distance of establishing a separate business unit," Yen said.

"Marvell's volume and expertise will further enhance the technology and Sun will also benefit by using the resulting chips," Yen said. "It also endorses the innovation value of Sun's intellectual property."

Yen declined to comment on any discussions that Sun may be engaged in with other vendors about licensing the technology. "If Cisco is interested in any of our silicon technology we are very interested in talking with them," Yen noted.

According to a recent report, Cisco is considered the leading vendor in the 10 GbE space with a nearly 70 percent share of the market.

Though 10 GbE represents the future, it is not yet widely deployed in enterprises or data centers.

"Data centers today are dominated by 1 gigabit Ethernet and a lot of that is due to cost," Yen said. "With today's more capable processors, people are more desperate for higher bandwidth on the networking side and 10 GbE is right now the major industry standard in that direction." We bet a lot on that interface and we believe that it's going to become much more popular."

Article courtesy of internetnews.com

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