SAN MATEO, Calif. In an attempt to get out in front of emerging I/O standards for networking, Xilinx Inc. has rolled out 10-Gbit Ethernet, PCI-X and Common Switch Interface (CSIX) products. Hypertransport and Infiniband offerings are in the works, Xilinx said.
The San Jose, Calif., company said it has begun delivering a 10-Gbit Ethernet media-access controller (MAC) core; a 100-MHz version of its PCI-X core; and a reference design for the CSIX interface. The offerings are intended to push Xilinx's high-end Virtex 2 FPGA deeper into networking applications, where I/O has become a dominant design issue.
The 10-Gbit Ethernet MAC is being delivered before the IEEE specification has been finalized, and conforms to the P802.2ae draft. Xilinx said it was eager to come out early to give designers a reason to use its FPGAs, which can be modified if the standard changes, rather than fixed, standard cell-based ASICs for 10-Gbit Ethernet.
Though the standard has yet to be completed, interest in the 10-Gbit version is already running high in both the LAN and WAN arenas, according to Xilinx. Based on market research data, the company estimates the number of 10-Gbit Ethernet ports could rise from about 15,000 this year to 1.5 million in 2005.
Nortel Networks, for one, is trying to spearhead the deployment of the networking standard. Nortel announced in June that it has started trials of a 10-Gbit Ethernet server-to-switch architecture that would reduce the bandwidth bottlenecks in data centers. The trials are being held in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard.
Nortel is also on Xilinx's list of target customers for the MAC core. "Nortel has been requesting this for the longest time," said Babak Hedayati, director of product solutions marketing at Xilinx. Hedayati said that 10-Gbit Ethernet "provides streamlined provisioning, easier network planning and reduced cost."
At the same time, Xilinx is making available a 100-MHz core for PCI-X, a successor to PCI that has been adopted in servers from companies such as Compaq Computer Corp. PCI-X slots will also serve as host to the 10-Gbit Ethernet optical adapters from Nortel.
Site licenses for the 10-Gbit Ethernet core and PCI-X core are $22,000 and $17,995, respectively.
Separately, Xilinx said it will provide a reference design for the CSIX-L1 physical interface, a 32-bit, 166-MHz point-to-point data path for network processors.
In coming months, Xilinx said it intends to provide a Hypertransport interface based on technology it licensed from API Networks. The chip-to-chip I/O scheme, based on low-voltage differential signaling, was developed by Advanced Micro Devices and is backed by companies such as Apple Computer, Nvidia, PMC-Sierra and Sun Microsystems, among others.
For box-to-box connections, Xilinx intends to support Infiniband using a special device that embeds a PowerPC in an FPGA fabric, which the company has been jointly developing with IBM Corp. for two years. "Infiniband is a big one," Hedayati said. "You need to have 3.125 serial I/Os and it requires such a huge software approach that you need a processor on-chip. We're working on a custom job where the processor is sitting in the center to get the maximum performance. This is not a standard core cell. The processor is getting immersed in the FPGA fabric."