Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dualies Aren't Just for Trucks

This article was originally published in April of 2009 at 10GbE.net.

One would think that after 30 years our industry would have developed a NIC naming convention for "dual-port." Does a dual-port NIC mean your OS sees one or two interfaces? Do dual-port NICs mean that one port is active and the other is for fail-over? Can a dual-port run traffic through both port simultaneously? It all depends on who you talk to, and the product they're selling.

With 10GbE we've seen three main approaches for building dual-port NICs:

Active/Active: this is what most people expect, a single OS interface with a driver that sprays traffic fairly evenly across both network ports and if one port fails the other picks up the slack until it can handle no more: 
  • Chelsio's N320E for $790 is an example of this type of card.
  • Intel's AF DA card for $799 appears to be another example of this class of card.
Dual-NIC: two OS interfaces are presented to the OS and both interfaces run independently. This typically affords the best performance and the most flexibility:
  • Myricom's 10G-PCIE2-8B2-2S+E for $995 appears to be the only example of this approach. Myricom utilizes two unique 10GbE controllers on the same PCI Express Gen2 NIC and a PCI Express bridge chip to break the slot into two unique NIC devices.
Active/Passive or Active/Fail-over: a single OS interface with a driver that monitors connectivity on the active port and if the connection fails the driver migrates traffic rapidly over to the second port: 
  • Myricom's 10G-PCIE-8B-2S+E for $795 is an example of this type of card. The fail over time is under 10 microseconds.
  • Chelsio's B320E Bypass adapter for $3,483 is similar but it can detect an OS/BIOS/System failure and make a hard switch over to the second port.
Do the above categories cover it, or do we need more lingo? When looking for a dual-port NIC, what features do you require, and what do you expect? Please let us know.

P.S. As I brought this page back online I left off the links as most no longer apply, but from a historical perspective it is interesting to see how things have progressed.

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