Pete (right) and Joe Edwards (left) guided us into Jones Farm 3, past security, and through the labyrinthine nest of laboratories and cubicle farms that is home to Intel’s LAN Access Division (LAD).
The LAD is a global operation, with silicon design centers in Israel and Austin, Texas; software development in Oregon and Poland; network interface card design and operations in Oregon; and several design centers in Asia and Europe. Knowing the magnitude of the work done here, and also knowing that the X-Lab is the epicenter of Intel’s 10GBASE-T networking platform test and validation efforts, I went in expecting something like a data center—some expansive room with raised flooring and rack after rack of test equipment. What I encountered was something closer to the equipment closet in the hall outside that data center.
The X-Lab, as Pete described it, is a “compact but efficient command-and-control center for twisted-pair Ethernet conformance testing.” Half of the chamber was dominated by chrome baker’s racks laden with what seemed an endless supply of Ethernet cabling. There were racks supporting test equipment and ever more bundles of cables. But I’d be stunned if the room was larger than 1000 square feet. Six of us standing amidst the benches and tools were rubbing elbows and finding it awkward to maneuver. Remodeling to expand the LAD’s test capabilities was going on in the adjacent room, so our conversations were constantly punctuated with the sporadic rhythm of hammering.
Yet, even in those cramped quarters, geek humor prevails. Pete has a Guy Fawkes mask perched atop one instrument, and a crown from some buffalo wing establishment adorns another shelf. Some years ago, one of Pete’s young children drew him a poster-sized landscape in crayon, scrawled unabashedly in green and yellow. The X-Lab crew still have it taped to the inside of the lab’s only door. They shrug with acceptance of their long hours and joke that it’s the most sunshine they usually see in a day.