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Wintel Forces Drive Ethernet Convergence in Data Center

SEATTLE -- Ethernet in the data center stepped forward on two fronts this week as Microsoft Corp. said it would support a new architecture for TCP/IP offload in its Windows Server operating system starting next year.

Chip makers Alacritech Inc. (San Jose) and Broadcom Corp. (Irvine, Calif.) announced new Gbit Ethernet controllers geared for the new Windows software.

Separately, Intel Corp. said it was lowering the price and providing support for multimode fibre in its 10-Gbit Ethernet cards. All the announcements point to a broad drive to converge networking, storage and clustering functions in the data center on 10-Gbit Ethernet.

Established and startup chip makers have worked for sometime on offloading TCP/IP processing to dedicated silicon as that job threatens to swamp host processors in servers with multiple-Gbit links. However, to date chip makers have had to work around the lack of native support in operating systems for the relatively high-level task.

At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here Tuesday (May 4), Microsoft said it will support in Windows Server a partial TCP/IP offload approach as part of a new TCP/IP stack it calls Chimney. A beta version of Chimney for IPv4 will be released in the second half of this year with a formal product introduction early next year. It will also support load balancing.

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