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Chips ease server processor burden

May 18, 20042 mins
Data Center

* Broadcom, NetEffect both unveil chips for taking load off server processors

Separately, Broadcom and NetEffect announced last week at the NetWorld+Interop trade show Ethernet controllers for servers that perform TCP offload and Remote Direct Memory Access.

As network speeds increase, servers need to handle more I/O requests. TCP offload is a technique for handling those requests separately, so server processors can spend more time running applications. RDMA lets servers put information directly into the memory of other servers, also lessening the burden on the processor.

Broadcom’s NetXtreme II is a Gigabit Ethernet controller intended to be placed on server adapters to facilitate clustering. The company joins a host of other proprietary and standards-based clustering approaches such as InfiniBand, Myricom’s MyriNet and Quadrics.

Broadcom calls NetXtreme a converged NIC (C-NIC) because it also serves as an iSCSI host bus adapter, allowing IT managers to run both network and storage traffic over the same network segment.

The company’s TCP/IP offload engine shifts protocol processing from the CPU to the network controller. The iSCSI protocol capability allows block-oriented storage traffic to run over Gigabit Ethernet. Embedded in-band management pass-through technology allows for remote control of a server over a network connection.

The Broadcom chip is designed for use in rack servers and blade servers and will be implemented on motherboards. It uses Microsoft’s TCP Chimney software, which improves CPU utilization by as much as five times over previous Gigabit technologies. TCP Chimney is a technology that provides TCP offload without using external memory.

Meanwhile, NetEffect announced its own coming-out party; the company was formerly called Banderacom and involved in InfiniBand silicon production. NetEffect changed focus nearly two years ago and looked at speeding up Gigabit Ethernet and making its processing more efficient. Like Broadcom, NetEffect will ship Gigabit Ethernet chips that perform TCP offload and RDMA, as well as iSCSI. NetEffect will ship its first chip and a reference model by which other vendors can make completed adapters by early next year.

The company has not named its platform yet. It is funded for $22 million.

NetEffect claims it will be able to bring out effective Gigabit, as well as 10 Gigabit processors, because of its experience with InfiniBand. Its silicon will also use iWARP Remote Direct Memory Access, which is compatible with today’s Ethernet architecture.