By Dave Simpson
—Start-up 4Blox Inc. today announced software, dubbed 4Mezzo, that is designed to decrease CPU utilization in iSCSI implementations. The company claims a 3X to 10X reduction in CPU utilization.
The initial product in the company's software lineup is iSCSI target software that resides between the iSCSI protocol and the TCP protocol at the operating system level. The software components will initially be available in reference code form on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The code is in beta now, with a production release scheduled for later this month. Company officials hope to announce demonstrations at next week's Storage Networking World conference.
The software-only solution is designed as an alternative to more expensive, hardware-based accelerators such as iSCSI host bus adapters (HBAs) and TCP/IP offload engines (TOEs), as well as other iSCSI software implementations from vendors such as Wasabi and Open-E. 4Blox is targeting iSCSI vendors, as opposed to end users.
Dan Munro, CEO and president of 4Blox, claims that the performance of 4Mezzo rivals that of hardware accelerators. He admits, however, that 4Mezzo software is designed more for 10Gbps Ethernet implementations than single-port Gigabit Ethernet environments.
"Today, most iSCSI implementations are on 1Gbps Ethernet," says Munro, "but when you get to 10Gbps Ethernet or multi-port Gigabit Ethernet, today's CPUs—even dual-core and quad-cores—can't handle it. Our software is a play for those environments, and high-bandwidth applications such as video and backup."
An initiator version of the software is due "in the first half of 2008." With a target-initiator combination, the software will actually boost iSCSI I/Os per second (IOPS) performance, as opposed to just reducing CPU overhead, according to Munro. He claims that performance gains of up to 10X will be possible with the target-initiator combo. The software works in either physical or virtual server environments, and is independent of the operating system, port count, and line speed.
In terms of potential customers, 4Blox is targeting iSCSI storage systems vendors as well as manufacturers of standard network interface cards (NICs).
Expected pricing is $150 per iSCSI port.