Dualies Aren’t Just for Trucks

This article was originally published in April of 2009 at 10GbE.net

One would think that after 30 years our industry would have developed a NIC naming convention for “dual-port.” Does a dual-port NIC mean your OS sees one or two interfaces? Do dual-port NICs mean that one port is active and the other is for fail-over? Can a dual-port run traffic through both port simultaneously? It all depends on who you talk to, and the product they’re selling.

With 10GbE we’ve seen three main approaches for building dual-port NICs:
Active/Active: this is what most people expect, a single OS interface with a driver that sprays traffic fairly evenly across both network ports and if one port fails the other picks up the slack until it can handle no more:
  • Chelsio’s N320E for $790 is an example of this type of card.
  • Intel’s AF DA card for $799 appears to be another example of this class of card.
Dual-NIC: two OS interfaces are presented to the OS and both interfaces run independently. This typically affords the best performance and the most flexibility:
  • Myricom’s 10G-PCIE2-8B2-2S+E for $995 appears to be the only example of this approach. Myricom utilizes two unique 10GbE controllers on the same PCI Express Gen2 NIC and a PCI Express bridge chip to break the slot into two unique NIC devices.
Active/Passive or Active/Fail-over: a single OS interface with a driver that monitors connectivity on the active port and if the connection fails the driver migrates traffic rapidly over to the second port:
  • Myricom’s 10G-PCIE-8B-2S+E for $795 is an example of this type of card. The fail over time is under 10 microseconds.
  • Chelsio’s B320E Bypass adapter for $3,483 is similar but it can detect an OS/BIOS/System failure and make a hard switch over to the second port.
Do the above categories cover it, or do we need more lingo? When looking for a dual-port NIC, what features do you require, and what do you expect? Please let us know.
P.S. As I brought this page back online I left off the links as most no longer apply, but from a historical perspective it is interesting to see how things have progressed.

Thinning the 10GbE Herd

This article was originally published in January of 2009 at 10GbE.net.

Thinning the herd.

In 2007 over one million 10GbE network ports were purchased. Many of those were for a switch to switch interconnects but some were to connect servers to networks via 10GbE. Natural selection is now taking effect in the 10GbE NIC market as the big dogs, Intel & Broadcom, start thrashing around in an effort to secure market share as 10GbE matures. Both want to dominate the 10GbE LAN on Motherboard (LoM) market. In the NIC market, four companies likely supply over 80% of the 10GbE NICs purchased and they are Chelsio, Intel, Myricom, and Neterion. The remaining 20% of NIC sales fall to companies like Broadcom, SMC, NetXen, ServerEngines, Tehuti, AdvancedIO, Endace, Napatech, etc… One should be wondering why Broadcom is in the second group, it’s because Broadcom’s focus is on selling 10GbE silicon to OEMs like IBM and HP for LoM projects positioning their silicon on high-end server mother boards and not retailing NIC cards. 

Officially the first documented victim is NetEffect, the leader in iWarp (Infiniband for 10GbE) NICs. NetEffect rose from the ashes of a failed Infiniband company, Banderacom, earlier this decade to apply their silicon development skills and Infiniband algorithms to the more stable Ethernet market as a new feature called iWarp. NetEffect in-fact led the iWarp charge, it was the self-proclaimed leader in low-latency iWarp 10GbE NICs. In August NetEffect filed for reorganization in US Bankruptcy Court. With the failure of NetEffect the market has cast its vote and drove a stake through the heart of iWarp, hopefully terminating this feature.
Rumors have been swirling around Teak Technologies, a maker of 10GbE NICs and a switch, for some time. It appears that Teak has not weathered the storm and has since faded away, their domain name is no longer resolving to an IP address. The domain was never transferred from the founder, and the founder announced this spring on Linkedin that he had moved on some time ago. Is it conclusive evidence, no, but would you buy technology from a tech company whose URL won’t resolve to a server?
It is a tough economic climate for start-up NIC companies, particularly those in the bottom 20% as they have likely never had a quarter in the black. Now is a challenging time to be out there seeking another round of capital from ones VCs. Several have been without an injection of new funding for over two years and lack the sales volume required to sustain their own existence much beyond year end. As such we’ve directly questioned one firm to see if they are alive, and another that is widely rumored in the industry to be in trouble, but their marketing departments are still bailing.