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All Aboard The NIC Express

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.

• Simple and intuitive GUI.

• Detects logical breaks.
• Inexpensive.

• Does not support Linux.
• Arrays cannot be changed remotely.

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.

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