PCIe 2.0 Gets Warm Welcome

Arthur Cole

From the looks of things at the Intel Developer Forum this week in San Francisco, it won't be long before the PCI Express 2.0 standard finds its way to the enterprise. No doubt, this is partly due to Intel's recent announcement that it would begin shipping the PCIe Gen2-enabled x38 chipsets this month to get the jump on AMD's RD790 due in November.


Firms specializing in interconnect technologies certainly weren't hesitant to take advantage of the format's 5.0 Gbps rate, twice the speed of current PCIe solutions, not to mention the wider link width of up to 16 lanes of connectivity.


Mellanox showed off a new pair of dual-port 20 Gbps Infiniband and 10 GbE adapters, outfitted with PCIe 2.0 accelerators to double the bandwidth to the host processor. The ConnectX IB and EN adapters are designed to consolidate multiple GbE and Infiniband adapters into a single unit to simplify the I/O networks that feed consolidated blade server and storage platforms. The company says the PCIe 2.0 format delivers 1850 MBps one-way, and 3650 MBps two-way throughput over a single 20 Gbps Infiniband port, a 30 percent increase.


For Fibre Channel users, QLogic has geared its SANblade 2500 series 8 Gbps HBA to the Intel Stoakley platform, which has built-in support for PCIe 2.0. The combination is part of an end-to-end platform featuring single- and dual-port HBAs, blade server HBAs and switches, plus edge and director switches, all geared toward reducing back-up time and disk-to-disk replication and broadening throughput for wide-band file formats.


Meanwhile, Broadcom is using PCIe 2.0 to deliver 10 Gbps bi-directionally using only four lanes. The demo features the company's BCM57710 converged network interface controller (C-NIC) tied to the Xeon 45 nm architecture. A fully loaded BCM device can support eight lanes of PCIe 2.0 throughput.


Of course, once you've installed PCIe 2.0, you'll need a means to check its performance. Just in time, Tektronix has come out with the TLA7S16 and TLA7S08 serial analyzers geared toward the enhanced performance of 2.0 systems. Since speeds are doubled in the new format, signals have to be captured at twice the speed as well. 2.0 also features a three-layer architecture consisting of physical, data link and transaction layers. The new analyzers not only capture PCI signals in dynamically changing states, but track errors that may come from outside network elements as well.


PCIe 2.0 adoption is expected to go relatively smoothly, considering it features full backward compatibility with the current PCIe 1.1 standard. Of course, there's no reason to let your users know the real reason for the new, faster network. Make them think it's due to the extreme hard work and dedication of the IT staff instead.

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