Big Effort, Little Chip
If our tour was any indication, this is the current big Kahuna in the X-Lab: Intel’s 40 nm, 10GbE Twinville silicon. We photographed it here in both its LAN-on-motherboard (LOM) and PCI Express network interface (NIC) card (code-named Twinville) incarnations. As we proceed, you’ll begin to get a sense of the scale and resources Intel is devoting to making 10GbE happen.
“Ethernet is important for all servers, PCs and workstations, and it is the critical backbone of today’s datacenters,” said Pete. “That’s one of the reasons Intel reorganized in 2009 to combine Intel’s networking, server, and storage groups into a single data center group. 10GbE has already been deployed in many data centers.
Ethernet can be deployed over different types of physical interconnects. When a new, faster version of Ethernet is introduced, it starts out using expensive fiber optic connections. Eventually, as costs and power decline, it moves to the less expensive, copper interconnects the industry refers to as ‘BASE-T.’ These BASE-T connections use the familiar RJ-45 connector, which looks like a phone plug, only a little larger. This is the connection you see on nearly all servers, desktops, and laptops or in the Ethernet switches scattered throughout your favorite LAN party.”
To succeed in the market, 10GBASE-T needs low-cost cabling, run lengths of up to 100 meters, and backwards compatibility with gigabit Ethernet networks. The amount of silicon development, interface testing, power analysis, software validation, and everything else required to bring a new networking platform into production is almost overwhelming.