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How does a TOE affect performance?

Some vendors offer to host databases and Microsoft Exchange on NAS boxes, while advising that it is not recommended as far as performance concerned, because NAS works at file level access whereas SAN works at block level. In a NAS/SAN fusion with iSCSI, how would a TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) affect performance?

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TOE can help NAS, iSCSI as well as general TCP/IP performance and offloading CPU workload on your servers. TOEs are being deployed on target (storage) devices where the I/O activity from multiple initiators (servers) aggregate. The aggregated I/O and performance needs on storage devices are a good fit for TOEs today. However, TOEs have not caught on and are rarely deployed, particularly in general purpose environments. Some TOEs support iSCSI, some support TCP/IP traffic in general and some support both. Depending upon your specific performance needs, a TOE could help improve performance. However, you will want to weigh the added cost of a TOE vs. the achieved performance improvement.

Regarding the other part of your question, databases and Microsoft Exchange can be supported on NAS based solutions, but there are some caveats. For example, Microsoft only supports Exchange on a Microsoft based file system including Windows Storage Server NAS. Another caveat is the level of performance you need for your database and Exchange applications. Finally, confer with your storage vendors and database vendor as to what they will certify and support for your environment.

This was first published in June 2005

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