Chelsio has produced three network interface cards which it claims can converge server networking, iSCSI storage and high-performance clustering onto a single "unified wire" Ethernet connection.

The cards are based on a Chelsio-developed chip called T3 that it said saves the host server from having to process network packets by embedding all the necessary network protocols in hardware on the card itself.

The T3 chip also includes packet filtering capabilities and is low-latency, said Chelsio's CEO Kianoosh Naghshineh. He added that the latter is vital for processor clustering, while the former allows the NIC to enforce rules mapped from a firewall.

Chelsio has built-in bandwidth management capabilities so connections can be rate-limited to avoid overruns - for example because a 10Gig switch buffer is full, or a disk drive cannot spin fast enough. "10 Gigabit is finally happening," said Naghshineh. "The latency issue has been resolved now with low-latency switches, and by putting all the protocols into custom silicon, new levels of performance become possible. You will see people converting from Fibre Channel to Ethernet, and from InfiniBand and Myrinet to Ethernet."

Naghshineh said that the three cards have different amounts of internal memory to suit different uses. At $795, the N310 is a server networking card with only external memory, the RDMA-capable R310 starts at $995 and aimed at clusters, and the $1495 top-of-the-line S310 "has a lot of memory for storage acceleration - we bundle an iSCSI software stack with it too".

He added that all three cards are available either for short-range CX4 copper cabling, or for an additional $500 you can buy versions fitted with a 10GBase-SR fibre-optic module.