The Power of 10 GbE

Arthur Cole

The race may be on for 10 GbE capability throughout the enterprise, but it seems that few people are paying attention to the heat and energy consequences of the technology, particularly once data demands start to drive the port densities back up.


One company that is concerned about it is Solarflare Communications, a maker of the Physical Transceiver (PHY) that powers switches, controllers and network adapters. In this analysis at EE Times, CTO Steven Pope explains the kinds of power trade-offs that will be necessary based on the 10GBASE-T standard currently in place.


A major problem is controller offload, which Pope says will exceed the power budget for a 10GBASE-T network adapter unless a more efficient architecture is developed. Fortunately, advances in 90 nm designs for controllers have exceeded expectations, so it looks likely that balancing the power between the controller and the PHY will provide a suitable short-term fix.


But like the 1000- and 100GBASE-T implementations before it, the power requirements for 10GBASE-T will diminish over time. So ultimately, the PHY will be able to hold an entire network interface architecture within an acceptable power budget. It's just going to take some time.

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