Attacking Ethernet's data center limitations, Fulcrum Microsystems today announced FocalPoint, a breakthrough 10-Gigabit Ethernet switch chip family with 200 nanoseconds of total latency--a 10x improvement over existing solutions. The device, according to Fulcum, makes Ethernet the cost-effective and high-performance choice for storage, computing and networking backplane and interconnects applications.
FocalPoint switches are fully integrated, single-chip solutions containing as many as 24 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports and cost less than $20 per port.
The low latency of FocalPoint switches puts Ethernet on par with such specialty data center interconnects as Fibre Channel, InfiniBand, and Myrinet. It can be used as an interconnect for high-performance computing and storage systems and as a cost-effective backplane fabric for blade computing systems or AdvancedTCA and other networking systems.
"History has shown that once Ethernet becomes good enough for an application, it dominates that application. FocalPoint's rich feature set and low latency means Ethernet is now better than the high-speed interconnect alternatives and ready for these applications," said Bob Nunn, president and CEO of Fulcrum Microsystems. "This is an important step for the industry; FocalPoint directly enables the next-generation build-out that has been needed in the data center."
FocalPoint is, according to Fulcrum, the first Ethernet switch to implement support for advanced data center topologies, such as fat trees, a multi-tier network design that links switches at each tier to maintain high bandwidth between the endpoints. Fat tree networks are increasingly used for storage and clustered computing applications. With low latency and a rich set of data center features, FocalPoint enables the build-out of multi-tier fat tree systems of thousands of non-blocking ports, while maintaining sub-microsecond latency from any port in the network to any other port.
"The use of multiple fabric technologies within industry-standard platforms extends the range of applications that can be addressed, but this will tend to fragment the market, reducing the number of vendors supplying particular configurations," said Simon Stanley, principal consultant, Earlswood Marketing and research analyst for Light Reading's Comm Chip Insider. “Fulcrum is betting that by eliminating the latency issues with Ethernet switching, the vast ecosystem that surrounds Ethernet will drive much-needed consolidation."
Two members of the FocalPoint product family are being introduced. The FM2224 contains 24 quad-SerDes 10-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, each of which can be configured to operate in 10 Gbps, 2.5 Gbps, and 10/100/1000 modes; and the FM2112 contains eight quad-SerDes 10-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, along with 16 single-SerDes interfaces that can support 2.5 Gbps and 10/100/1000 operating modes. The device is intended to provide an economical solution for dense 2.5 Gbps and 1 Gbps applications.
Both devices offer a robust set of standards-compliant layer-two Ethernet switch features, including rich VLAN support, link aggregation, port- and MAC-based security, and Spanning Tree link management. The switches feature shared and protected packet storage memory, and support 16K MAC address entries.
Both devices include Fulcrum technology blocks: Nexus Terabit Crossbar, and RapidArray Packet Memory. Nexus leverages Fulcrum's asynchronous technology foundation to deliver more than a Terabit-per-second of non-blocking throughput with 3ns of internal latency. RapidArray combines the ultra-fast data path of the Nexus crossbar with standard foundry state bits to deliver packet memories that offer twice the throughput of commercial memories, while maintaining comparable density and yield.
Both chips will be sampling in January 2006. The US list price for the 24-port FM2224 is $450 in 5,000 unit quantities (less than $20 per port); the price for the 8/16-port FM2112 is $265 in 10,000 unit quantities. A fully-integrated 1U-high evaluation platform containing 24 10-Gigabit Ethernet CX4 interfaces will be available in January for rapid test and development.