Ethernet Interoperability on the Rise

Arthur Cole

InfiniBand may be showing strength in the high-performance computing (HPC) category as we mentioned earlier this week, but the sheer number of Ethernet interconnection and interoperability agreements between vendors is likely to fuel a robust set of solutions for some time to come.


And the mere fact that Ethernet extends from the enterprise onto the carrier networks means it will likely be the network fabric of choice for large firms with numerous branch offices.


One of the chief goals at the moment is fostering Ethernet interoperability with other networking protocols. In that vein, IRT Electronics has released an Ethernet-to-ASI network interface adapter. ASI is an adjunct to PCI Express aimed at creating more modular communications platforms for access, edge and enterprise devices. IRT's MEM-4551 adapter acts as the gateway between Ethernet and ASI environments by encapsulating Ethernet data in ASI packets, using fixed data rates and PN (Program Number) identifiers for decoding on the receive end.


Other firms are working together to boost the capabilities of the Ethernet switch itself. Storage and communications firm Marvell, for example, has teamed up with software developer Aricent to bring the latter's Intelligent Switch Solution (ISS) to the Marvell Prestera and Link Street switches. The result is a robust platform for Layer 2 switching incorporating Quality of Service (QoS) and other management tools for OEM designers. Marvel also just got word that the Prestera switch has been validated for use with Applied Micro Circuits' QT2035/35S 10 GbE physical layer IC, a development that enhances the switch's migration to the SFP+ form factor.


Meanwhile, Fulcrum Microsystems and Solarflare Communications have come out with a 10GBASE-T switch design by combining SolarFlare's 10Xpress physical layer with the FocalPoint FM2224 chip. The design provides for a 1U switch with 20 10GBASE-T ports and four XFPs. Dubbed the San Marino, the design will be out soon on a new line of switches from SCM Networks.


While InfiniBand is likely to have a home in highly complex data environments for some time, Ethernet looks set to be the workhorse for the majority of business-class enterprises. But as 10Gb Ethernet continues to push the throughput envelope, we're wondering how long it will be before the manufacturing community makes a serious effort at Ethernet-to-InfiniBand connectivity.

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