Intel has announced a batch of fast Ethernet adapters, and dismissed Level 5's claims to streamline networking and cut CPU loads.

Although these devices give faster access, the bottleneck that Level 5 addresses remains, Intel acknowledged: "Those things do work, particularly with older processors," said Steve Chenoweth, marketing manager of Intel's LAN access division. "Fundamentally we need to solve the problem on the server itself - we shouldn't have to add in acceleration cards." [which sounds very much as if Intel is saying it would rather sell a new server than a new NIC].

The Level 5 cards only work with Linux, pointed out Chenoweth, a limitation which Level 5 chief Craig Easley accepted.

The new Intel adapters join other products on the PCI Express standard, including adapters from Neterion. PCI Express can scale eventually to 100Gbit/s, offering a dedicated serial connection to each device.

Intel was more keen to talk about PCI Express: "We started shipping PCI Express in a few systems last year, and will phase out the old stuff in around five years," said Chenoweth. Intel's PCI Express cards will cost the same as its PCI server adapters, from $150 to $450.

Although servers all come with Ethernet on the motherboard, the market for adapters continues, as servers need to have multiple ports for redundancy, for aggregation and for clusters, said Chenoweth. "We still see increases in the server side. IDC predicts a smarket for of half a million boards per year in EMEA."

The adapters also include a copper 10Gig module, using a CX4 connector. "We expect to see a pick-up in CX4," said Chenoweth. "It?s a matter of economics. You can just add a single card, for a server room connection up to 15m."