SAN JOSE, Calif. – Hewlett-Packard is shipping a family of network switches it claims are the first to use the newly minted Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) standard. Enabled by new physical layer Gigabit Ethernet chips from Broadcom and a new HP ASIC, the switches are showing significant advances over competing products in third party tests.
The IEEE 802.3az standard defines a protocol that lets two ends of an Ethernet network communicate only when they have packets to transfer. The protocol eliminates the overhead of typical administrative messages allowing systems to stay in a sleep mode as much as 80 percent of the time.
The Broadcom PHY chips provide the key support for the new spec. However, HP claims its second-generation 65nm ASIC that supports media access control and other 10G and Gigabit Ethernet functions also boosts power efficiency on the switches, mainly through better power gating on the chip.
The new HP E-Series zl modules include a range of ten 10G and Gigabit Ethernet adapter cards that slot into existing HP chassis.
An analysis commissioned by HP and conducted by Tolly Enterprises LLC, a third party testing company, compared the HP E5400 and E8200 switches using the EEE spec to Catalyst 3750-X and 4500 switches from Cisco Systems that do not use the standard. It said the HP switches consume 2.1 to 2.3 W per Gbit/s compared to 8 to 20 for the Cisco switches.
The 10G modules use optical fibre and consume up to 56 percent less power per port thanks to the ASIC. The Gigabit modules reduce power over copper links about 32 percent due to the ASIC and Broadcom parts, said Sreeram Krishnamachari, a global product manager at HP.
The EEE spec allows for a 16.5 microsecond latency getting the switches back out of sleep mode. "I expect the industry will adopt the standard pretty quickly," he added.
“With HP’s new modules, our network infrastructure is more agile and provides increased bandwidth for our researchers, yet it requires less physical space and consumes less energy,” said Chuck Sears, a manager of research computing at the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences in Oregon State University, an early user of the switches speaking in an HP press release.