Neterion virtualizes server-to-storage I/O with 10GbE adapters

By Kevin Komiega

—Neterion, a maker of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) adapters, has announced a new line of 10GbE adapters designed to bridge the gap between servers and storage in virtual environments.

The newly released Neterion X3100 Series adapters enable multiple guest operating systems of a virtual server environment to share one physical adapter through the use of physically separate I/O channels.

The X3100 offers 17 independent hardware I/O paths directly in silicon, each with independent reset and control that can be matched to a 16-core CPU virtualized server with one extra path for management.

Neterion's president and CEO, Dave Zabrowski, says having true independent I/O paths directly in silicon overcomes the severe manageability limitations of other firmware-based implementations of I/O paths, which can't perform true I/O virtualization. Neterion's silicon-based architecture, he says, enables applications on virtual machines to deliver Quality of Service (QoS) with dynamic allocation of I/O bandwidth that can instantly increase to full 10Gbps throughput when required.

Zabrowski calls the new line of X-Frame products the "missing piece" of the virtualization puzzle. "The advent of hypervisors for x86 platforms and multi-core CPUs created an I/O bottleneck that has forced IT departments to draw a line in the sand and decide which applications can be virtualized and which cannot," he says. "What we are announcing is a brand-new I/O virtualization solution that will essentially eliminate this bottleneck."

The X3100 Series utilizes a new high-performance PCIe x8 system interface to achieve maximum bandwidth and deliver full line rate throughput with low latencies and the devices support all major operating systems, hypervisors, and server architectures.

The X3100 Series adapters also support the new industry-standard, SR-IOV 1.0 (Single-Root I/O Virtualization.) SR-IOV is a PCI-SIG workgroup extension to PCIe that allows a single adapter to behave like multiple physical adapters in a virtualized server. IOV-compliant adapters like the X3100 Series allow hypervisors to implement direct hardware access for data transfers to eliminate I/O overhead.

According to Bob Wheeler, a senior analyst at the Linley Group, the IOV standard was designed to eliminate bottlenecks and open up all applications to virtualization.

"Neterion's SR-IOV-compliant 10GbE adapters, with support for VMware's NetQueue technology, demonstrated near 10Gbps line rate throughput under VMware ESX Server 3.5," says Linley. "This kind of performance makes it possible to virtualize even the most I/O-intensive applications in enterprise data centers."

Neterion began taking sample orders from OEM partners last month and, while the company does not forecast when its partners will make products generally available, Zabrowski expects the X-Frame X3100 Series 10GbE technology will hit the streets in the second half of 2008.

This article was originally published on March 18, 2008