Alacritech accelerates iSCSI

Posted on June 01, 2005

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By Dave Simpson

Although less than 10% of all iSCSI installations use accelerator cards, according to various surveys, that hasn’t stopped Alacritech from plowing ahead with its annual refresh of the company’s line of iSCSI and TCP/IP accelerator cards, or controllers.

Alacritech recently began shipments of eight models in its SES2000 family of iSCSI accelerators, as well as eight models in the SEN2000 line of TCP/IP accelerators. The iSCSI storage controllers are sometimes referred to as TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) host bus adapters (HBAs), while the network accelerator cards are referred to as TOE network interface cards (TNICs).

The iSCSI accelerators will compete with iSCSI HBAs from vendors such as Adaptec and QLogic. Alacritech commissioned VeriTest (www.veritest.com) to run benchmark tests to compare performance of the SES2000 accelerators with those from Adaptec and QLogic.

The SES2000 cards are based on Alacritech’s SLIC data path offload (DPO) architecture and come in eight versions, ranging from one to four Gigabit Ethernet ports and support for either copper or fiber interfaces and PCI-X or PCI Express host interfaces. Pricing for the PCI-X models starts at $599, with a 2-port configuration priced at $879. The PCI Express dual- and quad-port models will be priced and available next month.

Based on VeriTest’s benchmarks, the iSCSI HBAs deliver up to 90,500 transactions per second (512-byte bi-directional transaction rate), or an average of 71,264 transactions per second. With 4KB block sizes (which typify Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server environments), the cards provide a peak throughput of 188MBps, according to VeriTest’s tests.

The cards provide native hardware acceleration for Microsoft’s iSCSI software initiator, as well as fail-over support.

The iSCSI HBAs are certified with hardware/software from IP storage vendors such as Cisco, FalconStor, Hewlett-Packard, McData, Network Appliance, Promise Technology, Sanrad, and String Bean Software. Other features of the Windows-compatible cards include Ethernet link aggregation and fail-over.

TNICs

Alacritech is also shipping eight new models in the SEN2000 family of TNICs for Gigabit Ethernet. Features are similar to the iSCSI accelerations cards: copper or fiber network interfaces, PCI-X or PCI Express host interfaces, one to four host ports, and support for Ethernet link aggregation and fail-over.

The company claims wire-speed performance and the ability of dual-processor file servers (including NAS filers) to deliver quad-processor performance via the addition of the TNICs. The cards incorporate an ASIC-based TOE. Pricing starts at $999, with a dual-port card priced at $1,449. Dual-port and 4-port versions for PCI Express are due next month.


Alacritech sues Microsoft for patent infringement

In April, a US District Court granted Alacritech’s motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent Microsoft from using/selling its “Chimney” TCP offload architecture, which is due in the forthcoming “Longhorn” version of Windows (due next year), as well as the Scalable Networking Pack for Windows Server 2003. Alacritech originally sued Microsoft in August 2004, alleging that Microsoft’s “Chimney” architecture uses Alacritech’s patented SLIC technology.

According to Alacritech president and CEO, Larry Boucher, Microsoft rejected licensing terms that would be favorable to Alacritech last year.

Alacritech has been issued 16 patents related to technologies such as network data placement, protocol offload, protocol accelleration, and file cache offload. The Microsoft lawsuit relates to two of the patents

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