Comms chips

Intel's Ga-Ga for GigE

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) today released Gigabit Ethernet chips using the company's own silicon, as had been speculated here on Light Reading for the last several months (see Intel/Marvell: Who Was Stood Up? and Intel Readies GigE PHY Chip).

The new chips were two of five Ethernet-related products Intel announced (see Intel Launches Five GigE Products).

So far, Intel's GigE controllers have incorporated physical-layer devices (PHYs) from Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL). But word at last month's Intel Developer Forum was that Intel was giving private demonstrations of a Marvell-free Ethernet chip.

The all-Intel controllers are a long-anticipated development that's likely to get a ho-hum response from Marvell investors. Marvell's well prepared for this day, having already launched Yukon, a Gigabit Ethernet controller to rival Intel's chips. In fact, many analysts think Marvell's biggest bugaboo in this market will be not Intel, but Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM).

And Intel isn't giving up the Marvell relationship just yet. Marvell officials have noted they're continuing to work with Intel on new products. And Intel officials aren't wedded to the idea of using all-Intel silicon for Gigabit Ethernet.

"We will use the technology that's most appropriate for the application," says Tim Dunn, vice president of Intel's communications group.

The first of Intel's new chips, the Pro/1000 CT, uses the CSA bus developed by Intel as a faster alternative to the commonly used PCI bus. A standard called PCI Express will take care of the speed problem, but Intel didn't want to wait for the standardization process.

The Pro/1000 MT, Intel's other chip announced today, does use the PCI bus and targets mobile devices. Dunn says Intel doesn't intend to offer CSA for mobile devices, because by the time the mobile market needs a new bus -- in 2004 or 2005 -- PCI Express will be ready.

Also today, Intel joined the XFP race with the TXN18107 module for singlemode fiber. XFP is a multisource agreement (MSA) for a 10-Gbit/s serial transponder, as opposed to the parallel 10-Gbit/s transponders currently sold.

Most 10-Gbit/s transponders use a 300-pin MSA, but several alternatives are en route. The Xenpak MSA is in place, and systems using Xenpak modules should begin shipping this spring, says Bob Zona, senior product marketing manager of Intel's optical platform division.

Xenpak's size is a handicap, as its development was rushed to accommodate OEMs' product schedules. The smaller XPAK and X2 MSAs will correct the size problem while still splitting 10-Gbit/s feeds into slower parallel streams (see The X-Wars: Agilent Strikes First).

The TXN18107 was developed by the former LightLogic Inc., acquired by Intel in 2000 (see Intel's 10-Gig Shopping Spree). Intel expects to be sampling by the end of March and will be showing the module at the upcoming OFC Conference.

Naturally, Intel's not the only XFP player turning up the buzz for OFC. Other companies that have made XFP announcements today -- either entire modules or the critical electronics for modules -- include BitBlitz Communications Inc., Infineon Technologies AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX), and Quake Technologies Inc. Other announcements arrived last week from MergeOptics GmbH and Multilink Technology Corp. (Nasdaq: MLTC), timed to coincide with CeBIT.

By the way, Intel's two other announcements today were a 10-Gbit/s adapter card for servers, and a card with four Gigabit Ethernet ports targeted at servers and storage networks.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For up-to-date information about the coming OFC Conference, please visit Light Reading’s Unauthorized OFC Preview Site


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