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Member Spotlight: Tehuti Networks

Following is an interview with Nir Sever, Chief Operations Officer at Tehuti Networks, discussing the NBASE-T Alliance and technology.

What was the motivation for joining the NBASE-T Alliance?

We believe support for the NBASE-T specification will open new markets and broaden the deployment of our industry-leading multigigabit solutions.  The 2.5 and 5 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) speeds enabled by the NBASE-T specification are an important interim step for customers who are currently forced to compromise performance and functionality because they are handcuffed by their 1GE networks.

What are the applications (industries, market segments, etc.) you have in mind as you implement NBASE-T technology in your product line? Are there any applications that you wouldn’t be able to address without this technology?

We see strong demand for NBASE-T technology in a range of applications including storage, video and Wave2 solutions.  In the storage market, the majority of desktop network-attached storage (NAS) systems today are only equipped with 1GE ports, and in some cases, are using bonded connections between the switch and storage to get added bandwidth, but this is not enough. In storage servers with fewer than 8 bays, it is impossible to utilize the full 10GE bandwidth, so NBASE-T technology fills a critical gap. In the video market, streaming uncompressed 4K video will require 4GE or more of bandwidth.  Even compressed 4K video bandwidth requirement exceed that of 1G. Finally, as Wave2 access points (APs) hit the market, these devices will put extreme pressure on today’s massively deployed 1 GE enterprise networks.  PCs, workstations, storage servers, video servers, surveillance aggregators and so on will all have to migrate to faster speeds to support the onset of Wave2.  The existing cabling infrastructure is a significant barrier to this migration.  By adding NBASE-T support to our 10GE controllers, we give customers a way to break through this barrier without having to rip and replace their structured cabling.

What NBASE-T products are you developing?

We have developed two products – our TN9510 adapter reference design and our TN4010 controller. Both solutions support 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps speeds, and enable the development of low-power, low-cost, single-port applications.  Some of our ODM and OEM customers are already leveraging our reference design and we expect them to start shipping products later this year.  We are also working with a major OEM customer to co-develop a new NBASE-T NIC that we expect to launch very shortly.

How do you expect your NBASE-T solutions to be deployed at either the system or network level?

Since our solutions implement the MAC function, they will always be connected to the NBASE-T PHY on the media side and to a PCIe bus on the host side. This means it is likely to be used in the following ways:

  • LAN On Motherboard (LOM) applications where the MAC is located directly on the motherboard of a client device such as a PC, storage device or network appliance
  • NIC application where a PCIe card is used to expand the capabilities of existing clients that were not designed as NBASE-T LOM
  • Accessory or external adapter application where the external device connects to an existing system such as a laptop through a high-speed data port such as Thunderbolt or USB3.

Have you uncovered any unusual applications for your NBASE-T products?

Though not necessarily unusual, we were impressed by how well our external adapter solutions were received when we demonstrated the capability at Interop 2015.  We were the first to show this type of solutions using NBASE-T technology, and spoke to many interested parties at the show.  The external adapter provides a way for systems such as laptops to connect to the network at 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps speeds.  This is important in enterprise applications where users may have need to connect to a docking station or other wired device. Until we demonstrated the capability, people really weren’t thinking about this type of applications.

What do you see as the benefit of NBASE-T technology vs. alternative approaches (i.e., 10GBASE-T, 10GE optical, etc.)?

NBASE-T technology allows customers to get the most out of their copper cable.  We believe copper will continue to be the cabling of choice outside of the data center and in backhauls.  Within the data center, the technology gives customers the ability to move beyond 1GE.

What do your customers tell you about NBASE-T and/or their need for improved performance without upgrading cabling? 

There’s no question customers want to increase performance, but cabling is only one factor in the equation.  Another key consideration is switch cost, and the cost of 10GE switches is too high.  It’s a classic chicken and egg problem.  Switch cost is high due to low volumes, and volumes are low due to switch cost.  We believe that NBASE-T technology has the potential to bring down the cost of the switch, which in turn will drive up volume and lead to lower switch costs.