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Demartek Takes First Look at Mellanox® ConnectX® 10Gb Ethernet Adapters

17 December 2010

Mellanox, known primarily for InfiniBand adapters and switches, sent us some of their ConnectX 10Gb Ethernet Adapters for a first look in our lab. These are dual-port, PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0, x8 adapters, which we installed into two of our Nehalem-class (PCIe 2.0) servers running Windows Server 2008 R2 and connected via our copper SFP+ cables into our 10GbE Cisco Nexus 5020 switch.

The installation of the adapters and driver software was straightforward and would be fairly easy for any server administrator to accomplish. These adapters have several of the typical network features that can be adjusted such as receive side scaling, TCP and UDP checksum offloading, VLAN support and several others. Mellanox uses the term Load Balancing and Fail-Over (LBFO) that an administrator can use to bundle up to eight Mellanox ConnectX adapter ports for load balancing and failover.

Also provided in the properties of these adapters are performance tuning settings that in addition to adjusting settings in the adapter also will optionally disable certain Windows services in an attempt to improve network performance.

We ran several file transfer tests between two of our Nehalem servers running at 10GbE and found that the performance was competitive with other 10GbE adapters that we have tested. Their performance was especially good with file transfers across the network when we installed SSDs into both servers, and used the SSDs for the source storage in one file server and the target storage in the other server.

The Mellanox ConnectX adapters also support some of the newer networking features such as Data Center Bridging, also known as Data Center Ethernet, FCoE and SR-IOV. Look for us to conduct more testing of these features in the future.

Look for more and more competition in the converged 10GbE adapter marketplace as vendors of all sizes enter this up and coming arena.

Mellanox and ConnectX are registered trademarks of Mellanox Technologies, Ltd.