Several makers of components that go into networking equipment have agreed on a specification for high-speed communication among their chips, which could lead to smaller, less power-hungry and less expensive network gear.

The vendors have announced the creation of the Unified 10Gbit/s Physical-Layer Initiative (UXPi), a group that will promote the common specification and present it to the Optical Internetworking Forum for approval as a standard, according to Tom Palkert, a systems architect at UXPi member company Applied Micro Circuits (AMCC), in San Diego.

A common standard should make it easier to build routers and switches that offer 10G bps (bit-per-second) network interfaces, he said. In order for these kinds of systems to support interfaces such as 10-Gigabit Ethernet, chips inside the routers and switches have to communicate at 10Gbit/s. UXPi is promoting a common specification for 10G bps connections including chip to chip and across a system's backplane. Members include AMCC, IBM, Infineon Technologies, Texas Instruments and Xilinx.

If a vendor can find electrically compatible components for all the key parts of a networking device, that vendor should be able to mix and match parts from several vendors, Palkert said. That can mean faster and less expensive development as well as simpler designs that take up less space and power.

Several new and emerging network technologies offer 10Gbit/s speeds, including the OC-192 optical WAN (wide-area network) standard and 10-Gigabit Fibre Channel, in addition to 10-Gigabit Ethernet, said Brian Seemann, director of business management at the communications technology division of Xilinx, in San Jose, California. As the industry steps up from earlier 2.5Gbit/s interfaces, the chip vendors are standardizing for the new top speed, he said.

AMCC's Palkert would not predict when the OIF might approve UXPi's specification as a standard, but he said members can get it now and start developing with it.