Level 5 Hooks Up With Foundry

Startup joins HPC alliance, but sees itself as network server play

June 29, 2005

2 Min Read
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Level 5 Networksreceived a measure of validation for its EtherFabric network interface card today when it became a partner in Foundry Networks Inc.'s (Nasdaq: FDRY) HPC Ethernet Alliance Program. But the startup is looking to avoid getting pigeon-holed as a high-performance computing play (see Level 5, Foundry in Alliance).

EtherFabric is sold as a two-port, 1-Gbit/s PCI adapter for use in Linux-based blade servers, Web servers, clusters, and storage devices (see Level 5 Networks). It removes TCP/IP processing from the operating system kernel and puts it in the application via use of a special runtime library.

Foundry works with companies in its alliance program to insure interoperability with its Ethernet switches, and co-markets its partners products. The other partners in Foundry's alliance are also startups with high-speed interconnections -- Ammasso Inc., Chelsio Communications Inc., and Neterion Inc.

Level 5 is also part of the High Performance and Technical Computing (HPTC) Alliance sponsored by Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW).

Like other high-speed interconnection vendors, Level 5 is sensitive to being typecast as an HPC solution. It appears torn between this sentiment and delight over getting into Foundry's channels. “We expected to start in high-performance computing because customers are very sensitive to the interconnect there, but we expect the adoption to be very broad across network servers,” says marketing VP Dana Krelle. “We would hope you would see us in those product lines no later than next year.”To win server OEM deals that could take it out of the HPC realm, Level 5 must battle Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) as well as fellow startups Chelsio and Neterion.

Analyst Bob Wheeler of The Linley Group agrees that Level 5 needs to penetrate the server market but says it needs to support 10-Gbit Ethernet speed to keep up with Neterion, which already has an OEM deal with Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and others.

“Where the market is today, what’s important for Level 5 is getting hooked up with a Tier 1 OEM,” Wheeler says. “Their approach is interesting. I think they’ll have greater benefits for Web server and clustering applications.”

Level 5 is working on a PCI-Express version of its product, and expects a 10-Gbit/s card in the first half of 2006. Krelle says he expects the rollout to be in time for IP SANs to take advantage of 10 Gbit/s.

“We’re talking to storage companies, too,” he says. “I think you’ll almost certainly see 10-Gig Ethernet in IP SANs next year.”— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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