SAN JOSE, Calif. Intel Corp. expects to roll out next year a line of I/O processors as part of a first wave of silicon adopting the PCI Express Advanced Switching specification.
Advanced Switching (AS) is an extension of the PCI Express interconnect to go beyond the master/slave topology of PCI and allow peer-to-peer networking over Express for communications systems. Express and AS share a common physical layer but use different transaction layer architectures.
The AS spec should be completed by the end of the year with systems using the technology shipping in 2005, said Eric Mentzer, chief technology officer of Intel's communications group.
"I believe you will see many vendors design dual-use [Express/AS] products that can appear in computer and communications systems," Mentzer said. "Common Intel I/O processors based on Xscale and using AS could be used in servers for protocol offload and also appear in communications subsystems, " he added.
The Intel I/O processors, chips for storage applications and AS backplane chips will be among the first wave of AS silicon late next year, Mentzer said. Later, vendors will integrate PCI Express switches and Express-to-AS bridges into universal Express/AS parts for computers and telecommunications gear, he added.
Intel also is in early stages of defining network processors and Pentium chip sets for embedded and communications gear that could use AS, Metzger said.
To date few top-tier comms OEMs have become part of the Arapahoe Working Group now defining AS. EMC, Hitachi, Huawei, Marconi, Network Appliance and Nokia are part of the group. But so far Alcatel, Cisco, Lucent and Nortel have not participated.
"The comms OEMs are very interested in having low cost interconnects, but it is not top of mind for them right now," Mentzer said.
At least one Express backer, Hewlett-Packard, has dropped out of the Arapahoe group because it did not believe the AS technology would directly ap ply to its products.
"AS is not PCI Express. The most it reuses is the PHY and a part of the data link layer. It has a whole new transaction layer that doesn't reuse PCI Express software interfaces to any great extent," said one former Arapahoe member who asked not to be named.
"AS has its place in the comms market, but we wouldn't support it as a backplane for server blades. We think Ethernet is a better choice and lower cost," the former Arapahoe member said.