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Broadcom Delivers 100GbE Adapters

May 16, 2017

Author: Bob Wheeler

Broadcom introduced its first 100G Ethernet NICs last month, building on the 25G Ethernet family it sampled two years ago. The new NetXtreme E-Series adapters use a controller called Stratus, which the company isn’t marketing as a chip-level product for now. Aside from being Broadcom’s first 100GbE controller, Stratus handles multiple hosts and RDMA.

The company announced three new NetXtreme E-Series models: the P1100p single-port 100GbE NIC based on standard PCIe, the M1100pm single-port 100GbE card based on the Open Compute Project (OCP) mezzanine 2.0 specification, and the M150pm single-port 50GbE card based on OCP mezzanine 2.0. All three cards offer a PCI Express Gen3 x16 interface, and OCP systems can split this interface for one, two, or four hosts. Like Broadcom’s first 25GbE controller (Cumulus), Stratus includes an engine called TruFlow that offloads flow and overlay-protocol processing. Unlike Cumulus, it supports the RoCE and RoCEv2 RDMA protocols.

Despite the early stage of 100GbE adoption in servers, Broadcom’s availability trails that of three other vendors. Mellanox has been shipping 100GbE NICs for about two years, Cavium (then QLogic) introduced its NIC early last year, and Chelsio announced production in January. Mellanox is the early leader in 25GbE, 50GbE, and 100GbE NIC shipments, but Broadcom reached volume shipments of 25GbE NICs in 2016. Hyperscale-data-center operators will be early adopters of 100GbE NICs, as they were with 25GbE and 50GbE.

NetXtreme 100GbE card availability aligns well with Intel’s Purley server platform, which is sampling to hyperscale customers and will launch midsummer. Microsoft adopted 40GbE for Azure storage in late 2014, and it standardized on 50GbE connections for new Azure compute nodes in 2016. Other hyperscalers are less open about their deployments, but it’s easy to see how 100GbE server connections could begin to ramp in 2H17.

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