All Aboard The NIC Express

The latest version of FalconStor's load-balancing/failover software improves on an already award-winning product.

November 4, 2002

2 Min Read
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I installed NIC Express on a Dell PowerEdge 2450 box running Windows 2000 and Internet Information Server (IIS) outfitted with a Broadcom NetXtreme gigabit and 100-Mbps Intel Pro card. Both cards were connected at full-duplex 100 Mbps. I configured the array into one virtual card by choosing the Broadcom and Intel card from an easy-to-use interface. I turned on load-balancing, which put the cards in high availability mode. If load-balancing is not on, the cards will operate in failover mode.

First I tested performance. Using Mercury Interactive's LoadRunner to pull a 10-MB Web download to five client PCs running 10 virtual users, I established a baseline of 89.78 Mbps for downloading when load-balancing was off. NIC Express supports Cisco FEC/GEC (Fast/Gigabit Ethernet Channel) and IEEE 802.3ad, which are both switch-based standards for load-balancing. If enabled, the switch--not the server--is responsible for incoming load-balancing and uploading to the server. NIC Express supports load-balancing for both incoming and outgoing connections that don't rely on the switch for this function. When I tested this feature, the output was 176.33 Mbps, almost double the baseline.

To test failover capabilities, I set up a more complex network and started with the unplug test. As expected, when I yanked the primary card's cable, the secondary card took over until I plugged the primary card back in.

NIC Express also verifies the path to the default gateway between cards. To test this, I pulled the uplink port from the switch connected to the primary card. This didn't change the link status on the server, but because NIC Express couldn't ping the gateway, the software failed over to the backup card. Being able to detect logical network breaks is one of the product's distinguishing features.

The monitoring software shows five states for the adapters: working, currently failed, now working after failing, failed again and disabled. You can configure the software to disable a card if it fails more than "x" times an hour. Admins can be alerted by SNMP or through the Enterprise Manager add-on and can reenable the card after troubleshooting.

NIC Express's centralized and remote management lets you access all your servers, see a status report on the network adapters and view statistics--in all, a good deal. You get high availability, failover and impressive management capabilities for less than $1,000.

Michael J. DeMaria is an associate technology editor for Network Computing. Write to him at [email protected].

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