Last month Tehuti Networks brought out what may be the first truly commodity 10GbE NIC chip outside of Intel or Broadcom. Their TN4010 is small (11x11mm), draws a nominal amount of power (1W), it was designed for LAN on Motherboard (LOM) applications and from their data sheet, it boasts impressive specifications (ex. <4us latency). Oh, and did I mention that in large volumes you can acquire the chip for only $10! Now if this was Tehuti’s first chip I honestly wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this piece, but they’ve been in and out of 10GbE more than once.
Let’s take a moment and actually look at the specifications of the chip beyond the highlight reel. First on the Ethernet side we have a chip that claims to support SGMII, XAUI and CX4 so in English it can be used to build a backwards compatible card with an RJ45 plug supporting Cat5 for 10/100/1000Mbps and 10Gbps operation, or a low latency SFP+ chip that demands optics and fancy cables. On the server side we have a PCIe Generation two interface spanning 4-lanes, which is the most intelligent bus choice given that it’s a single port chip. So what’s in between? Tehuti OptiStrata processor. They claim it is actually a network traffic accelerator capable of supporting a number of stateless TCP/IP off-loads thereby freeing up the host CPU. It’s not OS Bypass, but it’s the next best thing. What exact stateless offloads are supported is unclear, but this can make a huge difference, especially given that it’s a $10 chip. Finally, in an interesting twist they also support something known as IEEE 802.3az. I had to look this one up, it’s the Green Ethernet standard. It appears that this chip in times of low activity will throttle back it’s power usage, while still being backward network compatible, by over 50%.
So is 10GbE now a commodity, it is if this chip works and people start soldering it down on mother boards, or building NICs with it. Right now the jury is out because Tehuti only provides a reference design. They learned from their last foray into the 10GbE market not to get into the messy business of actually selling cards, because it takes substantial capital, time and most important of all a skilled sales staff. Frankly though, not bringing a contract manufacturer online though to turn out their reference design as a single instance of their product, and doing a simple web-direct credit card sales model is a huge mistake. This raises the bar for anyone even remotely interested in considering using their chip for adoption.