Colorado Springs, Colo. IBM Corp. has signed an OEM agreement with 10-Gbit Ethernet startup Neterion Inc., making Neterion's Xframe II adapters a standard element in xSeries servers from the IBM systems and technology group. While the formal deal is limited to Neterion's PCI-X 2.0 adapter card, IBM and Neterion are continuing informal talks about alternative designs placing Xframe ASICs on the BladeCenter CPU card itself, or in alternative bus adapters such as PCI Express.
The deal validates Neterion's decision to pursue a strict OEM business model, somewhat risky for server serial interconnect, since server suppliers have dwindled to IBM, Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and a handful of small companies. Neterion chief executive Dave Zabrowski said he'll continue to pursue other OEM deals, but the pact with IBM clearly was the most important for Neterion.
Neterion is one of several chip- and board-level companies specializing in development of 10-Gbit Ethernet as a serial alternative to the likes of Infiniband, rather than as a local- and wide-area network technology. To expand into storage-area networks as well as server clusters, these vendors encapsulate Ethernet framing into such storage protocols as iSCSI and iWarp.
IBM's interest in the Neterion architecture spans server clusters and storage as well as emerging data center applications, said Tom Bradicich, chief technology officer in IBM's xSeries division.
The Neterion cards will be used in any IBM servers equipped with the X3 chip set, which includes the X366 four-way, X460 scalable, X260, X346 and other emerging four-way models. All the members of the family use PCI-X 2.0 with double-data-rate bus speeds.
Bradicich said that 10-Gbit Ethernet currently is seen as an adapter-card option, but the trend in Gigabit Ethernet markets was to slowly migrate serial interconnect directly to the CPU card. Thus, a 10-Gbit implementation on a BladeCenter card would be a feasible future model, he said.
Bradicich said that IBM chose Neterion based on the immediate availability of 10-Gbit technology and because of the cards' performance in real applications. In addition to PCI-X, IBM already offers PCI Express in high-volume servers and could add this bus alternative to the xSeries in the future.
As an early proponent of Infiniband, IBM recognizes that effective 10-Gbit Ethernet could eat into Infiniband's serial clustering and storage market. But Bradicich said Infiniband has an existing market in such applications as financial services and seismology, making its near-term demise doubtful.