Intel has introduced two 4Gbit/s optical transceivers that offer double the speed of most Fibre Channel networks for around the same cost.
Emulex is working with Intel to ensure compatibility between Emulex 4Gbit/s gear and the Intel transceivers. These Intel chips are aimed at HBA, switch and RAID controller applications and should accelerate the lowering of SAN prices.
Both transceivers are designed to operate on the 850nm multimode optical fibre found in 90 percent of enterprise networks. Intel also makes faster 10Gbit/s transceivers. It's predicted that SANs will move up to 4Gbit/s speeds in the next couple of years and then on to 10Gbit/s.
Why is Intel bothering to make these transceiver chips? Clearly it sees a profitable business and wants to extend its "Intel inside" into storage network chips. Up until now these have largely been the preserve of higher-priced specialized ASICS and to this degree, Intel is helping the commoditization of storage.
It's not just storage though. In the LAN area, Intel is busy making Ethernet chips and has a gigabit Ethernet line with a 10Gbit roadmap. Intel apparently sees itself as the provider of chip-level intelligence for computing and networking. It sees an increase in networking capacity coming with large data sets and increasingly complex applications bringing us into a 'Tera Era'.
At its Intel Developer Conference later this month executives will discuss its processor roadmap, its digital home strategy, wireless futures for Centrino and a broadband wireless need.
Intel CTO Pat Gelsinger will show attendees the view from inside Intel's R&D labs, where researchers are working on visual recognition and graphics virtualization applications that will require terabyte memory levels and terabits/sec of network bandwidth.
We could categorize this as typical Intel boosterism but Intel has been growing and growing. What the company is about is now two-fold: processors and network chips. It is benefitting in the networking area from the constant trend to put software into proprietary silicon and that silicon into standardized commodity chips.
So storage networking software moves into boards, then ASICs, and then Intel puts that functionality into its chips. For Intel, storage is just another form of networking, one where no other vendor has a dominant share of the market, unlike routing where Cisco dominates strongly. In wireless, in storage, in gigabit Ethernet and in Fibre Channel, Intel sees great opportunities to claw more and more functionality down the stack, as it were, and embed it in Intel's own silicon.
Intel chips are like black holes at the center of galaxies of networking software, boards, controller cards and ASICS. Sooner or later the gravitational pull of the Intel semi-conductor integration machine sucks them into its chips. Now you see them, now you don't -- because they are inside Intel.