Network Flexibility? Try new Pluggable 10GbE NICs

Intel has just launched the Intel® Ethernet Server Adapter X520 family.  These NICs are Intel’s first 10 Gigabit adapter products that support “pluggable” optics.  This additional configuration option gives IT users a great deal more flexibility in how they deploy 10 Gigabit in their servers and datacenters.

The X520 Family of adapters support bailed optics that allow the removal or addition of different kinds of optics or support with no optics at all.  For previous 10 Gigabit products, if you wanted 10 Gigabit SR Fiber connectivity, you had to purchase a 10 Gigabit SR adapter.  But with the pluggable X520 adapter family, you can support SR, LR, or simply an SFP+ direct attach cable via the same card by simply removing / exchanging the optics.


With the X520 you can still buy an SR or LR fiber configured adapter, but you can also switch back and forth after purchase by ordering only the new optics that you want to support (not a whole new adapter).  In the case of the Direct Attach adapter that supports an SFP+ cage, but comes without optics inserted, you can still use Twin-Ax copper cables to run in the rack less than 7m length runs of 10 Gigabit, but you can also upgrade the Direct Attach adapter later with SR or LR optics as the needs for the particular adapter may change. You can also mix and match optics modules in a dual-port adapter, meaning you could have an LR module in one port and an SR module in the other. You could also throw a Twinax cable into the mix.

The Intel® Ethernet optics modules for the X520 family of adapters also support both 1 Gigabit and 10 Gigabit speeds to help with backward compatibility – an industry first.

Finally, while this new pluggable capability of Intel 10 Gigabit adapters adds a bit more usage flexibility from an IT perspective, the performance capabilities and advanced features for the datacenter I’ve discussed over the past 18 months are also supported.  The X520 is based on the Intel® 82599 10 Gigabit Ethernet Controller, so the end result is a flexible product that can help unleash server IO performance whether FCoE, iSCSI, Virtualization, Security, or just raw IO performance.  Regardless of your 10 Gigabit needs, the X520 probably has what your Server environment needs.


Ben Hacker