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HP signs on high-speed networking start-up

S2io's adapters can transfer data at 10gbps and will be available on Unix, the two companies plan to announce Monday.

Hewlett-Packard has signed a deal to sell network adapters from start-up S2io that the companies say can transfer data 10 times faster than today's widespread standard.

S2io's Xframe adapters can transfer 10 gigabits of data per second and will be available on HP's Unix, the companies plan to announce Monday.

Servers have had 1gbps Ethernet adapters built in for years, and S2io is banking on the steadily growing appetite for higher networking bandwidth. But it will be a long time before 10gbps is mainstream, predicted Insight64 analyst Nathan Brookwood.

"I don't think servers are going to be going to 10 gigabits en masse for quite a while," in part because the adapters use optical fibers to transmit data, rather than the less-expensive copper wires used for 1gbps networking, Brookwood said. "Until someone figures out how to do 10 gigabits over copper, it's going to be something only very large servers or switches tend to use."

S2io has partnerships with other server makers. Sun Microsystems announced a plan in August to build support for Xframe into its Solaris operating system for both its own Sparc processors and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron chips. Silicon Graphics Inc. announced in May that it would offer the Xframe products. And Cray is offering the products on its XT3 supercomputers.

S2io's design uses a special-purpose processor to process network traffic encoded with the widely used TCP/IP standard that's the foundation of the Internet. That "offload" engine ensures that a server's main processor can perform useful work instead of spending most of its energy handling network traffic.