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10-GigE Hits Express Lane

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and a handful of startups are hoping to be driving the bus when 10-Gigabit Ethernet gives iSCSI an anticipated performance boost.

Here's the problem: With Fibre Channel bandwidth rising from 2-Gbit/s to 4-Gbit/s, IP SANs based on 1-Gbit/s iSCSI will be at a serious performance disadvantage -- that is, until 10-GigE is affordable enough to make it a viable option in low-cost systems. (See SGI Targets First in 4-Gig and FCIA Holds 4GFC Plugfest.) The 10-GigE adapter vendors hope to have their foot in the door when that happens.

Neterion Inc. announced this week that it plans to have the first 10-GigE PCI Express adapter going to OEMs next quarter (see Neterion Goes 10-GigE PCI Express and S2io Becomes Neterion). But word has it another startup, NetEffect, also has a 10-GigE PCI Express adapter sampling with OEMs.

Compatibility with PCI Express is what makes these adapters possible storage accessories. Where all devices on a parallel PCI-X bus share bandwidth, serially architected PCI Express allocates a specific amount of bandwidth per device. That improves its scaleability, quality-of-service potential, and latency, making it a better choice for storage than PCI-X, analysts say.

Of course, a market for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet adapters as part of IP SANs can't happen until 10-Gbit/s Ethernet itself drops in price. But Neterion is banking on that eventually happening.

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