SAN JOSE, Calif. Startup Teranetics Inc. will nudge the emerging market for 10 Gbit Ethernet forward Tuesday (Aug. 5) when it announces availability of the first dual-ported transceivers for copper. The TN2022 chips support the 10GBase-T standard and raise hopes for dense, lower cost switches that could drive market uptake.
The transition to 10 Gbit Ethernet has gone relatively slowly, in part due to the difficulty of delivering cost-effective solutions for standard copper cables. Unlike previous generations of Ethernet, 10GBase-T requires new versions of copper cables not widely installed in data centers and the transceivers still have relatively high power consumption and cost compared to existing Gbit parts.
The TN2022 is Teranetics' second-generation physical layer chip. The 65nm device dissipates 6W per port, compared to 11W per port on the company's first-generation product made in 130nm technology.
System makers such as Hewlett-Packard said they want transceivers that fit into a 1-2W envelop to drive mainstream adoption of the technology. "Over the next two or three years we will come down to 2.5W but it will require 32nm technology to get there," said Kamal Dalmia, vice president of marketing for Teranetics.
Dalmia noted that Gbit devices never got to the power consumption and costs of the previous 100 Mbit versions. "What drives the market is a value proposition the end user can clearly see," he said.
The new transceivers could make the first 48-port 10 Gbit switches practical, he added. Such systems would cost about $50,000 or about $1,000 per port today, but with the new chips could come down to as little as $250/port he added.
"Historically, when you can deliver ten times the bandwidth for three times the cost, that's when the market takes off," Dalmia said.
"I think most people believe that proposition," said Jag Bolaria, a senior analyst with market watcher The Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.). "The question is can Teranetics deliver on it," he said.
In late 2006, the startup was the first to have a single-chip 10GBase-T transceiver, something competitors Solarflare and incumbent Broadcom have announced this year. The Broadcom part is reported to have power consumption as high as 9W, though the company has not provided specifications, and rival Marvell is said to have its own transceivers in development.
Switch chip makers Broadcom, Fujitsu and Fulcrum have announced 24-port 10 Gbit Ethernet switches, but no one has launched a 48-port switch chip yet. Nevertheless, the Teranetics part could also be used in 24-port switches and as a copper replacement for optical uplink ports on networking systems.
The TN2022 can drive 10 Gbits more than 100 meters on the category 6-augmented cable specified for 10GBaseT, however that cable type is not widely deployed yet. It supports distances of 55-80 meters on more commonly used Category 5e cables.
The 25x25mm chips are sampling now and will be in production by the end of the year. Systems based on them could ship by June 2009, Dalmia said.
"The market for 10G Ethernet was just less than a million ports last year," said analyst Bolaria. "You can easily see that getting to six to eight million ports with 5-6W transceivers," he said.
"By the time we get to 2W transceivers, vendors could be selling more than 20 million 10G ports a year," he added. "There are a lot of niches you can support before you get to the mainstream" of some 200 million ports a year now covered by Gbit Ethernet, he said.
Cisco Systems launched a new Fibre Channel over Ethernet switch to help drive adoption of 10G in servers by enabling use of a single 10G card to replace separate Gbit Ethernet and Fibre Channel cards. However, a marketing executive with Hewlett-Packard said most business users still prefer to keep storage and networking traffics separate on their systems.