Neterion's New 10 Gig Adapter Slips to 2009

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Neterion's new family of 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapters, designed to solve the problem of I/O bottleneck in virtualized servers, won't appear on the market until the first quarter next year, a bit later than originally planned, company officials said.

In the meantime, Neterion announced Tuesday that it is enabling a subset of those quality of service (QoS) capabilities in an existing family of products, its X-Frame E 10Gb Ethernet adapters, which it said will allow IT staff to guarantee bandwidth for high-priority workloads. It also announced a brand for its QoS technologies, IOQoS.

Neterion made a splash when it announced its X3100 series adapters in February at the VMworld conference in Cannes, France. It said the adapters would be the first to support a new industry standard, SR-IOV (single-root I/O virtualization), for making a single adapter act like multiple physical adapters in a virtualized server.

The technology aims to resolve a bottleneck problem that arises when several I/O-intensive applications, such as a SQL database and a Microsoft Exchange server, are competing for I/O bandwidth in a server. SR-IOV provides a standard way to divide the network interface card into independent channels, which can each be assigned to a virtual machine or other workload.

The X3100 series will have 16 independent I/O paths built into the adapter's silicon, allowing IT staff to guarantee bandwidth for each workload based on its priority. When a priority workload doesn't require all the bandwidth allocated to it, the bandwidth can be automatically shifted to another workload to improve performance elsewhere. The I/O channels can also be reset independently, so that in the event of a failure, such as a virtual machine crash, the entire adapter doesn't have to be reset.

The X3100 series has been delivered to major server vendors, but the testing and validation process took longer than expected, said Ravi Chalaka, Neterion's vice president of marketing, explaining the delay

That may be the case, said Bob Wheeler, a senior analyst at The Linley Group, but he said Neterion also had "execution issues" with the X3100 series. "Validation cycles for server makers are quite long, that's not particularly unusual. But there was also a delay between when they announced the product and when they shipped samples," he said.

In the meantime, Neterion is making some of the QoS capabilities available to customers using its X-Frame E 10GB Ethernet adapters. The company has released a free driver update that will allow bandwidth to be dialled up and down for each channel to provide guaranteed QoS for workloads, said Philippe Levy, senior director of marketing.

The X-Frame E adapters have only eight independent I/O channels, however, as opposed to 16 with the X3100, and they don't support the ability to reset just one I/O channel in the event of a virtual machine crash. Still, some of Neterion's large customers did not want to wait for the X3100 series to get the guaranteed bandwidth capabilities, which is why it decided to update the X-Frame adapters, Levy said.

IOQoS gives users the benefits of I/O consolidation by moving from several Gigabit Ethernet cards to a single 10 Gb Ethernet card, while guaranteeing the QoS for separate workloads that they used to get from using separate Gigabit interfaces, he said.

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