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NIC Evolution

Intel’s X-Lab: Tomorrow’s Network Happens Here
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NIC Evolution

“Twinville will be used on our fourth-generation 10GBASE-T adapter product,” said Pete. “Our first-generation card here at the top was a single-port, 10GBASE-T adapter. It used the 82598, had a third-party PHY, and it came in right at the top of the 25 W limit for PCI Express. The PHY itself burned approximately 14 W of that power budget and required an active cooling solution. That product was introduced in 2007. We then ‘upgraded’ that 82598 MAC by coupling it with a second-generation, 65 nm 10GBASE-T PHY. With that single-port solution, we were able to lose the active cooling. Losing active cooling is critical for LAN-on-motherboard solutions. You don’t want more fans…although blue LEDs might be nice! Anyway, we called this the WWF heatsink because it almost looks like the WWF logo. That design gave us enough surface area to dissipate the heat without a fan, and the total power was significantly lower—about 16 W.

Then, using a similar 65 nm device, we were able to use the same active [PHY] heatsink but go to a dual-port solution. Total power bumped up to approximately 20 W, which is still lower less power than the first-generation device, but with two ports. It uses the 82599 media access controller and has less board complexity. There are fewer power components, for example.

And now, moving to our 40 nm device, Twinville, you can see that the MAC is integrated with the PHY. Actually, it’s not just one physical interface—it’s two. Also, it supports three speeds—100 Mb, 1 G, and 10 G—whereas the others only supported two speeds. And it’s expected to consume about 10 W. The Twinville we have in testing now uses an active heatsink, but by production it’ll be passive, just like the second-gen card.”

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