Inexpensive, Powerful and Blindingly Fast: Intel Commoditizes 10GigE

Yesterday I wrote about how Intel processors are dominant on the Interop show floor, proof that networking appliances are more inexpensive and powerful than ever before. We can add one more adjective to that description today — blindingly fast. In aggressive and dramatic fashion, Intel has entered the 10 gigabit Ethernet adapter market with a new line of dual-speed server adapters that use standard copper cabling and are priced under $1,000.

The new Intel 10 Gigabit AT Server Adapter will be available with the Dell PowerEdge product line, a popular commodity compute platform for server applications and networking appliances, and will operate at both 1 gigabit Ethernet and 10 gigabit Ethernet speeds. With this move Intel has effectively commoditized 10 gigabit Ethernet, which will undoubtedly drive the technology deep into enterprise IT networks.


While Intel is not the first to market with a 10 gigabit Ethernet adapter for the x86 ecosystem — Chelsio and Neterion have been shipping similar products with more functionality for some time now — the company’s aggressive pricing and influence on the supply chain will be significant. Intel in their announcement placed a shot across the bow at these competitive products, offering dual-port 10 gigabit Ethernet adapters priced under $800 aimed at the intra-rack and high-performance compute markets. That equates to commodity pricing of $40 per gigabit for these adapters.

While the pricing drives 10 gigabit Ethernet to a commodity, the performance of these new adapter cards is not yet documented. But I expect that, in typical Intel style, these adapters will perform admirably, if not best-in-class, as compared to the competition.

There is a well-documented historical trend of Intel producing networking adapters and then quickly integrating them onto their motherboards (and the motherboards of their suppliers as well). I would predict that we will see a 1 gigabit/10 gigabit Ethernet (1000/10000) adapter integrated on motherboards within 18 months (by 2010) and dual-port versions shortly afterwards (mid-year 2010) The days of high-end servers with 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports are numbered.

It will then more than likely be another two years post-2010 before we see an Intel announcement on an adapter card that runs 100 gigabit Ethernet. As I wrote last year, 100 gigabit Ethernet combined with multi-core Intel processors will be game-changing for the data center.

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