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Neterion Enhances iSCSI Throughput

Ethernet vendor Neterion has announced significant throughput enhancements to iSCSI  performance in virtualized environments.  Working in cooperation with storage software provider RisingTide, Neterion has put together a solution that significantly improves iSCSI performance in a virtualized environment. The hardware/software combination, the company suggest, can not only allow an increase in the number of guests a machine can host, but also enable I/O intensive applications that were previously required to run on dedicated hardware now be handled in the virtualized environment.

Utilizing the company's Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) compliant ten gigabit PCIe Ethernet adapters and RisingTide's iSCSI software, Neterion was able to achieve a near line rate of 8Gb/s throughput from their guests operating systems, running in a test environment of Red Hat's Kernel Based Virtual Machine (KVM) and Debian guests.

Single Root I/O Virtualization is a provision of the PCIe specification that enables multiple operating systems to share PCIe devices, such as Neterion's 10GbE adapters on a single physical server.  Each virtual machine can be given a unique data path to the adapter, taking the tasks of sharing bandwidth and allocation off of the CPU and hypervisor.  The hypervisor, does have to support SR-IOV devices which is slowing broader adoption of the technology.

While this particular iSCSI solution is somewhat narrow in scope, it still highlights some of the potential pitfalls of bringing virtualization to the entire data center. Steven J. Schuchart Jr., Principle Analyst for Data Center at Current Analysis, notes that "iSCSI is an important part of the single-network data center. Vendor proof points like this one are an important step in the evolution of iSCSI."  

As server and storage virtualization trudge toward ubiquity in the enterprise data center, solutions like Neterion's iSCSI support are going to be key in virtualizing I/O intensive applications.  These types of applications are traditionally forced to run on dedicated virtualized hosts or even stand-alone servers, due to the current bottlenecks in hardware access.  Solutions like SR-IOV and updated hypervisors that support them are on a path to mitigating the impact of storage intensive applications and bringing these apps into the virtualization fold.