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The Picture Of Ethernet

Ethernet, networking's version of Dorian Gray, is still looking pretty good, and if developments announced at the recent Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) are any guide, it will continue agelessly for some time. Much of the WinHEC news was centered on Longhorn and other OS-and-hardware developments. But the breadth of the networking-related announcements pertaining to Ethernet was notable. Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) might be looking beyond current networking schemes, but your data center probably won't be, at least for some time yet.

Microsoft, perhaps inevitably, was at the center of the buzz last week. The company is designing a new architecture, called Chimney, in its next-generation Windows server product that will support TCP/IP offload to dedicated server chips. That should greatly speed up high-volume networks through efficiency improvements, leaving the host processors free to control overall I/O and traffic requirements. That's a development that will please server managers.

Chip makers immediately jumped on the news: Broadcom and Alacritech wasted no time announcing Chimney-enabled Gigabit Ethernet controllers. For its part, Intel is shipping a relatively low-cost 10-Gigabit Ethernet adapter for servers that's aimed at luring enterprise business at all levels.

And it's not just basic networking that's making Ethernet an attractive buy for network managers: The increasing allure of iSCSI storage solutions is enabling an Ethernet and TCP/IP-based alternative to pricey Fibre Channel networks. The potential is there for Gigabit Ethernet to take off when Microsoft releases the next Windows Server. All of this activity helps Ethernet remain the portrait of a survivor.

Wintel Forces Drive Ethernet Convergence in Data Center

Ethernet in the data center stepped forward on two fronts, as Microsoft said it would support a new architecture for TCP/IP offload in its Windows Server operating system starting next year.

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