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This article is part of the Vol. 5 No. 5 July 2006 issue of Lessons learned from creating and managing a scalable SAN
TEN GIGABIT ETHERNET (GbE) is just around the corner, and a host of storage applications are poised to take advantage of it now that Microsoft has announced native support for TCP offload hardware as part of its Scalable Networking Pack (SNP) announcement in May. SNP is an architectural enhancement for Windows Server 2003 that's available as a free download and will also ship as an integral part of Windows Vista and Longhorn. SNP adds three main features to Windows: TCP "Chimney" offload, which allows the operating system to offload TCP processing onto specialized hardware away from the main CPU; receive-side scaling, for better utilization of dual-core processors; and NetDMA, or direct-memory access. The most obvious beneficiary of SNP is iSCSI, especially at 10Gb/sec speeds. At 1Gb/sec speeds, most iSCSI SAN practitioners have found they can get adequate performance from a software iSCSI initiator. "At 1Gb/sec, TOE [TCP offload engine] doesn't matter," says Marc Staimer, founder and senior analyst at Dragon Slayer Consulting, Beaverton, OR. "Today's CPUs ... Access >>>
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