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Switched PCIe: Better Bandwidth?


The serial-based PCIe architecture offers opportunities for extending peripheral connections beyond the blade, and NextIO believes its switched PCIe midplane for blade systems will offer increased bandwidth and greater flexibility that will translate into substantially decreased I/O cost and complexity at the blade level.

NextIO has partnered with Dell and Fujitsu-Siemens as well as I/O companies LSI Logic and Neterion. It is also working with Denali Software for high-quality verification of shared I/O designs. The PCI-SIG, with more than 900 member companies, is the unincorporated governing body of the PCI standard.

NextIO's approach to solving the bandwidth problems presented by high-density blade servers is unique, but much of its value is dependent on the development of IOV-enabled I/O devices for storage and network connectivity. The fact that NextIO's solution can be adapted to existing system designs and doesn't require specialized software support weighs heavily in its favor. It remains to be seen if NextIO's solution will be adopted by the major players.

Blade servers can pack the power of dual-core processors into a tiny space, but those same servers could find themselves unable to fully use the emerging quad-core processors because of power, cost and I/O limitations in the hardware.

Enter NextIO. The company's PCI Express, or PCIe, switching solution will remove those I/O limitations and let blade-server vendors deliver bandwidth to densely packed servers based on quad-core processors.

NextIO isn't the first to deliver a switching architecture for blade systems; plenty of other storage- and network-specific switching architectures exist, but it is the first to put a switch in the midplane, moving I/O off the blade and to the backplane, and thereby increasing performance, reducing blade complexity and leveraging third-party devices. A standards group is starting to define the spec for multiple virtual I/O devices on a single physical device, but it probably won't be defined until the end of this year.

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