Sunday, June 19, 2005

Level 5 Unveils EtherFabric Interconnects, Challenging InfiniBand and iWarp

Level 5 Networks, a start-up based in Sunnyvale, California with R&D in Cambridge, U.K., unveiled its EtherFabric, a high-performance I/O architecture aimed at improving server CPU efficiency while remaining completely Ethernet-compatible. Level 5's accelerated interface technology is positioned as an alternative to iWarp and InfiniBand, which the company describes as too disruptive for enterprises because incompatibilities with the existing network require that applications be rewritten for high-performance clusters. Level 5's EtherFabric places the TCP/IP implementation with each application via a linked library. This approach yields over 2x more CPU processing power for applications.

By improving the I/O interface, Level 5 estimates its technology could reduce the number of servers required in datacenters by up to 50%. EtherFabric also provides sub-10 usec (micro-second) latencies between application instances on different servers, improving application-to-application inter-server communication by 3-5x over conventional Ethernet. Unlike the competing technologies, EtherFabric adapters do not need to be at both ends of the connection.

Level 5's product set consists of network interface card (NIC) and its EtherFabric software, which supports Windows, Linux and Unix. Level 5 is also introducing a unique transport-layer channel bonding capability to enable multiple low-cost Ethernet ports to support a single application flow. The company's first NIC provides 2 ports of 1 Gbps EtherFabric. The company said its technology will scale for bonding 4 Gbps Ethernet channels, and later to 10 Gbps rates.

Separately, Level Networks announced $30 million in series B funding for its high-speed server interconnect solutions. Investors include Oak Investment Partners, Accel Partners, Amadeus Capital Partners and IDG Ventures.

  • Level 5 Networks is headed by Dan Karr, who previously held senior management positions at GlobespanVirata (formerly Virata). Prior to that, Dan was VP of Worldwide Sales for S3, where he secured design wins for the company's graphics semiconductors with all the leading vendors of PCs (IBM, Dell, HP, Compaq) and add-in graphics cards.

  • Level 5 Networks was co-founded by Steve Pope (currently CTO and VP Software Architecture) and Derek Roberts (currently Chief Scientist & VP Hardware Architecture) in 2002. Pope previously was a post-doctorate researcher of high-speed network solutions at Olivetti Research Labs, which later became AT&T Laboratories Cambridge. Roberts previously was the hardware architect for the CLAN high-performance networking project at AT&T Laboratories Cambridge.

See also