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Fulcrum Has Designs On 10G/40G Ethernet Switch Space

Fulcrum Microsystems has used this week's Supercomputing 2010 conference in New Orleans to release its Alta 1U Reference Platform, a single-board 10G/40G Ethernet switch reference design intended to speed time to market of high-port-count data center top-of-rack (ToR) switches. Code-named Barcelona, it is built on Fulcrum's low-latency FocalPoint FM6364 10G/40G Ethernet switch chip, and can be used to evaluate the performance of that chip in either a test environment or a live data center network, states the fabless semiconductor company.

This is an important step for Fulcrum because the data center market accounts for approximately 40 percent of its business. Customers using its technology include IBM, Intel, Juniper and Oracle (Sun).

Scheduled to ship in Q2 2011, Barcelona's ticket price will start at $25,000. Features include multiple high-bandwidth Ethernet ports -- 48 10G SFP+ (small form-factor pluggable) interfaces plus four 40G QSFP (quad SFP) interfaces -- VantagePoint congestion notification and adaptive routing framework, as well as a Freescale MPC8536 control processor, in a 1U rack-mountable form factor, dual load-sharing power supplies and a removable fan tray assembly.

Fulcrum says a new feature of the FM6000 series switches is FlexPipe, a 'deterministic' pipeline that can process packets at maximum theoretical bandwidth. Because it is also programmable, it is future-proof, says the company. Another new feature is RapidArray Shared Memory, which offers the ability to have any port write to any location, and every port read from every location. These are all part of Fulcrum's third-generation Alta architecture which is at the heart of the FM6000 series.

Barcelona will be greeted positively, says Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa. "With 10g in servers and blade chassis you need a faster uplink or trunk. 40gbps is a good choice." He adds that while Fulcrum won't have the market to itself, there is an opportunity. "Some vendors like IBM/BNT and Cisco have their own silicon. IBM is already shipping. Other vendors will b happy with a merchant solution."

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