Network chip makers align for faster gear

Several makers of components that go into networking equipment have agreed on a specification for high-speed communication among their chips, which could lead to smaller, less power-hungry and less expensive network gear.

The vendors Monday announced the creation of the Unified 10Gbps Physical-Layer Initiative (UXPi), a group that will promote the common specification and present it to the Optical Internetworking Forum for approval as a standard, according to Tom Palkert, a systems architect at UXPi member company Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC), in San Diego.

A common standard should make it easier to build routers and switches that offer 10Gbps network interfaces, he said. In order for these kinds of systems to support interfaces such as 10-gigabit Ethernet, chips inside the routers and switches have to communicate at 10Gbps. UXPi is promoting a common specification for 10Gbps connections including chip to chip and across a system’s backplane. Members include AMCC, IBM Corp., Infineon Technologies AG, Texas Instruments Inc. and Xilinx Inc.

If a vendor can find electrically compatible components for all the key parts of a networking device, that vendor should be able to mix and match parts from several vendors, Palkert said. That can mean faster and less expensive development as well as simpler designs that take up less space and power.

Several new and emerging network technologies offer 10Gbps speeds, including the OC-192 optical WAN standard and 10-gigabit Fibre Channel, in addition to 10-gigabit Ethernet, said Brian Seemann, director of business management at the communications technology division of Xilinx, in San Jose. As the industry steps up from earlier 2.5Gbps interfaces, the chip vendors are standardizing for the new top speed, he said.

AMCC’s Palkert would not predict when the OIF might approve UXPi’s specification as a standard, but he said members can get it now and start developing with it.