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Trying to maximize throughput

We need to build our own NAS and need to maximize (or at least be able to scale) throughput onto a Gigabit LAN. Veritest benchmarks indicate that W2k doesn't seem to take advantage of multiple CPU's like W2003 does and is thus very limited on the throughput irrespective of how many NICS are attached. What config maximizes throughput (we have TBs of gigabit size files) and how can it be scaled?

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Are you really building a NAS device or configuring a file server? There's not much difference except in controlling what else can be loaded and locking down the hardware configuration. There shouldn't be any difference in the way W2K and W2003S handle multiple processors.

If your W2K system was at one time a single processor system and someone upgraded it to multiple processors, there was a step necessary to be able to fully take advantage of the multiple processors. That is a well-documented Microsoft procedure to install a different kernel. This procedure is available from the MS Web site. If this was not done, that may account for the differences you see. Check to see if this was originally a single processor system.

One thing you might consider to improve performance is to install a TCP/IP accelerator NIC card (now being called a TNIC) to offload much of the software required processing for TCP/IP from the processor to the card. This will greatly improve performance. If you're not doing this, to maximize bandwidth, have as much memory and the fastest processors as possible.

Also, if you're using one of the later generations of Intel processors, hyperthreading can be exploited. Hyperthreading utilizes some hardware resource to make a single processor look and perform like two.

Randy Kerns
Evaluator Group, Inc.

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This was first published in July 2003

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