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Companies set sights on 10GBase-T adapter

Apr 20, 20062 mins

* Solarflare, Level 5 merge, look ahead to 10GBase-T

Solarflare Communications and Level 5 Networks earlier this week announced they have signed an agreement to merge, and coming out with one of the first 10GBase-T network interface cards was cited as a primary goal of the combined company.

In my colleague Phil Hochmuth’s coverage of the announcement, he notes that the companies could help bring about the first server adapter for 10 Gigabit Ethernet based on the 10GBase-T standard expected to be ratified in June. The standard would provide for running 10G Ethernet over unshielded twisted-pair copper wiring.

The merged company will keep the Solarflare Communications name, and Solarflare’s president and CEO will head it up. It will also raise funds to bring the company’s cash balance to $50 million. Solarflare has been developing 10GBase-T chips, while Level 5 has put together Gigabit Ethernet NICs.

Interestingly, the companies’ press release invoked Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe’s words on the proliferation of Ethernet and even got some comments from him on the merger itself: “Combining these two companies will help their data center and enterprise customers to build converged, high-performance networks for storage, network, and compute traffic easily and cost-effectively.”

The press release also quotes Mike Bennett, who as senior network engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is probably the first customer in line for any new high-speed server adapter: “The synergies of the technologies behind this merger are self-evident. Both the 10GBase-T and the high-performance controller technology are plug-and-play Ethernet. A 10GBase-T NIC with the accelerated Ethernet technology represents a significant improvement over non-Ethernet solutions because there will be no need to engineer the link or install new infrastructure. It just works.”

Can the combined company live up to expectations? Just how big is the market for copper 10G NICs? How long before it gets swallowed up by an even bigger company? Stay tuned.