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Broadcom Unveils World's First Converged NIC With iSCSI Offload On 10GBASE-T

Broadcom is the de facto standard for 1Gb and 10Gb iSCSI host bus adapter (HBA) offload with shipments expected to exceed one million ports in 2010. I learned this week the company made available to OEMs the 957711 dual-port network interface card (NIC), the world's first 10Gb converged NIC with iSCSI HBA offload to preserve server processor resources, and a 10GBASE-T physical interface for connection with low-cost RJ45 connectors and existing copper cabling. This is an important milestone in the development of the converged networking market. Over time, the presence of both technologies must be pervasive in order for convergence on 10GbE to reach its potential. Being first-to-market with iSCSI offload on a 10GBASE-T NIC platform also positions Broadcom for continued leadership in server connectivity to iSCSI SANs.

According to Page Tagizad, director of Product Marketing for the High-Speed Controller Business Unit at Broadcom, "Broadcom is uniquely positioned to deliver 10GBASE-T to the masses with the economies of scale of a 1Gb NIC business combined with our own 10GbE controller and 10GBASE-T technology."

Advances in iSCSI technology are important because until another technology (such as FCoE) proves it can carve out meaningful market share, iSCSI is the incumbent in storage for converged networks. Fibre Channel storage is forecasted to grow at low single digits. Within the same storage-array market, more cost effective iSCSI storage is ravenously eating market share with over 20 percent growth per year and now comprises about a third of storage array units shipped annually. Based on this growth, I expect the availability of 10Gb iSCSI storage to drive a tipping point in the storage array market within five years as data center managers in large enterprises realize they can free up money for other projects while notching-up the performance of their arrays to 10Gb per second.

Key technologies feeding the continued growth of the iSCSI storage beast are iSCSI HBA offload and 10GBASE-T. All Fibre Channel protocol processing is off-loaded from servers onto Fibre Channel host bus adapters. In contrast, many iSCSI configurations have a Windows or Linux server doing the iSCSI protocol processing. According to Broadcom, that processing can utilize up to 50 percent of CPU cycles, and up to two-thirds more than if iSCSI HBA offload was used.

If a data center manager pays $40,000 for an enterprise server and uses only 10 percent of his server's processing power for iSCSI, that data center manager is essentially paying $4,000 for his server to do the work of an adapter card. iSCSI HBA offload saves money and preserves precious server processor resources for business applications. This is accomplished by taking the iSCSI protocol processing off the server and putting it onto 10GbE NICs with offload engines.

With 10GBASE-T, in the near future, most data centers will migrate from 1Gb networks to 10GbE networks. A mass migration will be accelerated with 10GBASE-T technology that enables the use of familiar and low-cost RJ45 connectors. NICs with RJ45 connectors and 10GBASE-T allow data center managers to deploy 10Gb networks and storage using CAT6A copper cables already present in most of the world's data centers.  Without 10GBASE-T, miles of new optical cables and/or more expensive optical connectors must be run to migrate an entire data center to 10 gigabit speeds. In a recent report by IT Brand Pulse, survey results inddicate that IT professionals understand the benefits of 10GBASE-T technology. Approximately 50 percent said they would prefer to connect their 10Gb adapters with 10GBASE-T.

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