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Alacritech TCP/IP offload technology marks OEM milestone

Alacritech TCP/IP offload technology marks OEM milestone

San Jose-based Alacritech, Inc., took another step this week in pushing acceptance of its TCP/IP offload and acceleration technology when it made its 1000x1 IPP ASIC available for OEM integration in embedded applications such as blade servers, IP storage switches, network-attached storage (NAS) appliances and storage subsystems.

Jag Bolaria, senior analyst at the Linley Group said the announcement was a symptom of the growing interest in accelerator technology. "If you look at the market numbers from groups like IDC, this offload technology appears to be headed for big things," he said.

In that context, Bolaria said Alacritech's announcement is part of a natural evolution in which Alacritech's products have been pioneers, helping to define the space. "Six months ago they provided this chip as part of a board because at that time OEM's didn't want to get involved with designing and producing their own," Bolaria said.

Now, however, the market looks set to expand. "This may permit other vendors, particularly with less expensive offshore manufacturing, to integrate this technology and make it available at lower cost -- which should further spur acceptance," noted Bolaria.

Alacritech has been at pioneer of TOE technology. The 1000x1 IPP uses Alacritech's patented SLIC (session layer interface card) technology, a data-path TCP offload technology, which enables the 1000x1 IPP ASIC to perform the CPU-intensive data movement while host software handles TCP/IP connection management and errors.

Alacritech uses a patented queue manager, custom VLIW protocol processors and programmable classification engines to perform TCP/IP and iSCSI processing at full line rate. (The company claims wire-speed throughput at less than 8% CPU utilization.) The company has a suite of software drivers available, including drivers for beta versions of Windows .Net, WHQL-certified Windows 2000 drivers, Linux 2.4 drivers, and a driver development kit for other operating environments.

Bolaria said that Alacritech's closest competitors do not yet measure up. "Adaptec isn't currently shipping anything and Intel's smart NIC doesn't have the same capacity for terminating TCP as Alacritech," he added.

Arun Taneja, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, offered a slightly different perspective. He pointed out that much of the power of Alacritech's solution has been in the software -- meaning that Alacritech still, literally, holds the key to some of the supposed benefits of the acceleration technology. But, he admits, their strategy probably has inescapable logic.

"I think iSCSI will get a shot in the arm once these ISNICs are available from several vendors and integrators/OEMs present a real solution that shows the benefits over Fibre Channel -- maybe by early next year," he said. Taneja said having a major NAS player incorporate the technology would also be helpful. But in the meantime, what do you do if you are Alacritech? You do what you can to make it easier to get into the game. "That's exactly what they are doing," said Taneja.

For more information:

Learn more about which emerging technologies are worth pursuing from Marc Staimer of Dragon Slayer Consulting at the free Storage Decisions 2002 conference.

Learn where iSCSI is headed in this Q&A with SNIA's Ahmad Zamer.

Article: Users bogged down in IP storage hype

  • Alan Earls often writes about things NAS and SAN in his weekly "SAN/NAS Update: Trends" column. View the latest
  • About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, MA.


    Dig Deeper on Ethernet storage

    ISCSI TCP/IP TOE card specifications One means of improving iSCSI traffic performance is to include TOE (TCI/IP Offload Engine) capability on the Ethernet card itself. An iSCSI TOE allows the network adapter to process iSCSI traffic (often all Ethernet LAN traffic) locally -- relieving those burdensome processing tasks from the host server or other computers connected to the LAN. To implement this capability, iSCSI servers must be upgraded with Ethernet NICs that include a TOE chip onboard. Although the selection of iSCSI TOE cards is generally limited to just a few manufacturers, it's important to consider the available ports, host interface, and other card characteristics before making a purchase. The product snapshots in this segment highlight key specifications for a cross-section of popular iSCSI TOE cards.
    ISCSI TCP/IP TOE card purchase considerations ISCSI SANs are quickly gaining acceptance in small business and enterprise environments, but the benefits of iSCSI are often tempered by performance limitations when iSCSI storage traffic is added on top of everyday user LAN traffic. One means of improving iSCSI traffic performance is to include TOE (TCI/IP Offload Engine) capability on the Ethernet card itself. An iSCSI TOE allows the network adapter to process iSCSI traffic locally -- relieving those processing tasks from the host server or other computers connected to the LAN. To implement this capability, iSCSI servers must be upgraded with Ethernet NICs that include a TOE chip onboard. It's important to consider the available ports, host interface, and other card characteristics before making a purchase. In addition, the TOE card should fully support the traffic types handled on each server. This segment covers the specific considerations involved in iSCSI TOE card selection, and you'll find a series of specifications to help make on-the-spot product comparisons between vendors.

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