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New 10GbE Server Adapter Boosts Performance

Solarflare Communications has announced a 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) dual-port server adapter that provides up to 40Gbps full-duplex aggregate bandwidth, as well as technology that reduces latency. The Solarstorm SFN5122F is targeted at data centers with high-density 10GbE switches and multi-core, multi-socket servers, says Mike Smith, vice president of product marketing for Solarflare. It lets network administrators define up to 2,048 virtual NIC instances, meaning that applications such as hosted services, software as a service and cloud applications can be allocated their own communications channels rather than competing for bandwidth with other applications.

"It's now cheaper to use 10GbE connections than the 4-6GbE connections that many organizations have been using for their virtual server hosts," says Howard Marks, founder of and a Network Computing contributor. "As 10GbE port volumes increase, the NIC market is starting to heat up. While Solarflare has been in the 10GbE silicon market for years, these are the first Solarflare branded NICs."

With the card and a test 4-CPU platform with four 8-core processors, Solarflare claims to have achieved a near linear increase in throughput as it brought additional CPUs online. The first CPU had 37 Gbps, "which is about as fast as you can go when you account for the overhead with the protocol," says Smith. The company claims a server achieved 118Gbps with four cards and four CPUs. The company is also expected to announce a similar product later this summer that runs over twisted-pair cabling.

In addition, Solarflare has developed technology called Enterprise OpenOnload that bypasses the kernel and gives applications direct access to the NIC hardware, which they claim reduces latency to 4.5 microseconds, compared with the more typical 20 to 30 microseconds with other server NICs. By comparison, InfiniBand offers latency of one or two microseconds, but InfiniBand also requires specialized infrastructure, while Solarflare works with Ethernet-based networks.

"They're offering very low latency, which those who do high-performance trading on Wall Street love. They also offer  more virtual connections, with bandwidth management, than the competition, at a very attractive price," says Marks. "Things will get more interesting when they come out with the 10Gbase-T version later this year." The SFN5122F is available now for $1,100. Enterprise OnLoad is also available.