Targeting data center, PLX showcases 3rd generation PCI Express switch running over optical cable

Sept. 14, 2010
Held at this week's Intel Developer's Forum (IDF 2010), the company says the live demonstration exemplifies PCIe proliferation in the data center and in "the cloud."

SAN FRANCISCO -- At the Intel Developer Forum San Francisco (IDF 2010), PLX Technology (NASDAQ: PLXT), a provider of connectivity platforms for the data center and the home, announced the live demonstration of what it bills as the world’s only PCI Express (PCIe) Gen 3 switch moving data at eight gigabits per second/per lane over optical fiber in conjunction with a powerful flash-based, high-density, server-deployed memory tier. The PLX demonstration will illustrate use of PCIe as a box-to-box interconnect for data center and cloud computing using next generation PCI Express and low-cost optics to enable a wide variety of applications such as server and GPGPU clustering.

The company notes that PCIe is native to all servers and storage systems, and its usage over low-cost optics to cluster systems together in data centers and the cloud is expected to revolutionize the industry. PCIe over fiber promises to offer higher performance and greater distance at a lower price than standard PCIe cabling used today. PCIe Gen 3 in an eight lane configuration can transfer 64 gigabits of data per second, which is a six-fold improvement over 10Gbit Ethernet and with significantly less power required.

PLX is using its proprietary PCIe Gen 3 silicon in the demonstration, which highlights how server, storage and networking system OEMs can future-proof their next-generation designs with Gen 3 technology. The optical cable element of the demo contains prototype boards featuring optical engines converting PCIe signals to “light” on fiber optic cable with line rates of eight gigabits per second. The high-density memory tier in the demo is a PCIe-based Fusion-io ioDrive Duo with a PLX switch on board -- a high-performance solution that is being adopted by some of the industry’s largest server and storage companies. According to Gartner, PCI Express is expected to dominate the interface with enterprise SSDs by 2013 displacing SAS and SATA.

“Intel is delighted to see PLX taking a leadership role in demonstrating early PCIe Gen 3 silicon and subsequently bringing their PCI Express Gen 3 switches to market,” said Jim Pappas, director of initiative marketing, Intel. “This proactive approach helps the industry with early validation of the technology and builds a solid ecosystem for developing and launching new products based on PCI Express Gen 3 standard.”

“By combining lower power, latency and cost along with higher performance and smaller packaging, PCI Express makes perfect sense as the interconnect of choice for enterprise applications including technologies such as ours which offer a new, server-deployed memory tier with far greater density than DRAM and performance that far outstrips that of disk-based solutions,” said Tyler Smith, vice president of strategic alliances for Fusion-io.

“The convergence of PCI Express with other advanced technologies shows great promise to enable faster, more powerful and versatile systems across multiple markets,” said Al Yanes, president and chairman of the PCI-SIG. “PLX Technology, with its demonstration at IDF, is helping to champion PCI Express 3.0’s adoption in converged environments.”

“PCI Express continues to evolve in speed, functions and how data is transferred to and from systems while maintaining superior cost compared to other solutions,” said David Raun, vice president of marketing and business development, PLX. “Optical cabling and solid-state storage both represent new frontiers in PCI Express-based server and storage systems. PLX’s industry-first demonstration at IDF illustrates how blending these high-speed technologies can achieve unmatched performance in demanding enterprise systems.”

PLX expects its new PCIe Gen 3 switch family, which will be sampling later this year, to be the first switches in the industry fully compliant with the upcoming release of the PCI Special Interest Groups (PCI-SIG) PCIe Gen 3 protocol. PLX is now shipping more than one million units of PCIe products per quarter from its ExpressLane family and claims to maintain more than 65 percent share of the PCIe switch market. Join PLX at the Intel Developer Forum, Sept. 13-15, in San Francisco (booth 515).

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