Broadcom Intros World's 1st C-NIC with iSCSI Offload on 10GBASE-T

Broadcom is the de-facto standard for 1/10 gigabit iSCSI HBA offload with shipments expected to exceed 1 million ports in 2010. I learned this week the company has made available to OEMs the 957711 dual port network interface card (NIC) that is the world’s first 10 gigabit Converged NIC with iSCSI HBA offload to preserve server processor resources, and a 10GBASE-T physical interface (phy) for connection with low-cost RJ45 connectors and existing copper cabling. This is an important milestone in the development of the converged networking market. Over time, the presence of both technologies must be pervasive in order for convergence on 10 gigabit Ethernet to reach its potential. Being first-to-market with iSCSI offload on a 10GBASE-T NIC platform also positions Broadcom for continued leadership in server connectivity to iSCSI SANs.


According to Page Tagizad, Director of Product Marketing for the High Speed Controller Business Unit at Broadcom, “Broadcom is uniquely positioned to deliver 10GBASE-T to the masses with the economies of scale of a 1 gigabit NIC business combined with our own 10GbE controller and 10GBASE-T technology.”


iSCSI Storage Ravenously Eating Market Share
Advances in iSCSI technology are important because until another technology (such as Fibre Channel over Ethernet) proves it can carve out meaningful market share, iSCSI is the incumbent leader in storage for converged networks. Led by global economics, the growth of expensive Fibre Channel storage is forecasted to grow at low single digits. Within the same storage array market, more cost effective iSCSI storage is ravenously eating market share with over 20% growth per year, and now comprises about a third of storage array units shipped each year. Based on this growth, I expect the availability of 10 gigabit iSCSI storage to drive a tipping point in the storage array market within five years, as data center managers in large enterprises realize they can free money for other projects while notching-up the performance of their arrays to 10 gigabits per second.


Feeding the iSCSI Beast
Key technologies feeding the continued growth of the iSCSI storage beast are iSCSI HBA offload and 10GBASE-T:


iSCSI HBA Offload - All Fibre Channel protocol processing is offloaded from servers onto Fibre Channel host bus adapters. In contrast, many iSCSI configurations have a Windows or Linux server doing the iSCSI protocol processing. According to Broadcom, that processing can utilize up to 50% of CPU cycles, up to two thirds more than if iSCSI HBA offload was used. If a data center manager pays $40,000 for an enterprise server and uses only 10% of his server’s processing power for iSCSI, that data center manager is essentially paying $4,000 for his server to do the work of an adapter card. iSCSI HBA offload saves money and preserves precious server processor resources for business applications. This is accomplished by taking the iSCSI protocol processing off the server and putting it onto 10 gigabit Ethernet NICs with offload engines.


10GBASE-T - In the near future, most data centers will migrate from 1 gigabit networks to 10 gigabit Ethernet networks. A mass migration will be accelerated with 10GBASE-T technology that enables the use of familiar and low-cost RJ45 connectors. NICs with RJ45 connectors and 10GBASE-T allow data center managers to deploy 10 gigabit networks and storage using CAT6A copper cables already present in most of the world’s data centers. Without 10GBASE-T, miles of new optical cables and/or more expensive optical connectors must be run to migrate an entire data center to 10 gigabit speeds. In a new report from IT Brand Pulse, results of an end-user survey indicate that IT professionals understand the benefits of 10GBASE-T technology. Approximately 50% said they would prefer to connect their 10Gb adapters with 10GBASE-T.


Complete 10GBASE-T Solutions Coming Soon
You can get a 10 gigabit converged network adapter from Emulex with iSCSI HBA offload, and you can get a 10 gigabit NIC from Intel with RJ45 connectors and 10GBASE-T, but you can only get a 10 gigabit Converged NIC with iSCSI offload and 10GBASE-T from Broadcom. I expect about the time server OEMs start shipping their branded version of the BRCM 957711 NIC from Broadcom, previously announced switches from Cisco will be generally available with 10GBASE-T ports. The combination of the two will give data center managers access to a complete 10GBASE-T solution from two of the most trusted names in networking.


Bottom Line
The astounding growth of iSCSI has resulted in critical mass that can’t be ignored by the storage or networking community, while accelerating deployments of 10 gigabit networks has created demand for cost-effective 10GBASE-T technology . With 10GBase-T NICs with iSCSI offload now available from a major vendors like Broadcom, I expect the markets and market leaders to move front and center in the plans of data center managers, OEMs and investors.

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posted by: Frank Berry

Frank Berry, InfoStor Guest Blogger
by Frank Berry
InfoStor Guest Blogger

Frank Berry is CEO and senior analyst, unified networking practice, at IT Brand Pulse. He is a 30-year veteran of the IT industry, and has held senior executive positions at storage vendors such as QLogic and Quantum.