IBM signs up Neterion for server networking

Big Blue on Monday plans to begin selling the start-up's adapters under its own name for use in higher-end Intel based servers.

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IBM plans to begin selling Ethernet adapters from Neterion on Monday, the most significant partner thus far for a start-up whose products transfer data at 10 gigabits per second.

Big Blue will sell the products under its own name for use in its higher-end Intel-based servers such as the x460, said Neterion Chief Executive Dave Zabrowski. The product uses the company's second-generation Ethernet chip and plugs into a PCI-X 2.0 slot. IBM also will use the company's driver software to support the adapters.

"It's very significant," Zabrowski said of the deal. "IBM has the most market momentum of any server vendor out there."

Neterion also has signed deals with Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics Inc. and Sun Microsystems.

Neterion, formerly called S2io, is one of the companies trying to make 10-gigabit Ethernet a reality. Most servers today come with 1-gigabit Ethernet, while personal computers generally are another step down with 100-megabit Ethernet.

Such transitions take years, though. Faster networking usually first catches on to connect high-end switches before propagating to servers and eventually to mainstream computers.

The internal data traffic within IBM's x460 is managed by a chipset called x3. One feature of the servers is virtual input-output--a feature that makes it possible to shift networking resources assigned to software without disrupting that software.

That virtualization ability in x3 dovetails with a similar ability in the Neterion adapters, Zabrowski said. The total 10-gigabit-per-second capacity of the adapter can be sliced up in any of eight different ways, for example, to be assigned to different independent partitions of a server.

"You can assign a certain amount of bandwidth uniquely to those partitioned workloads. The partitions don't even know they're sharing the adapter," Zabrowski said. And the capacity allocations can be changed on the fly, he added.