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Is There a Place for a $500 Ethernet Card?

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the yowza dept.

Networking 423

prostoalex writes "ComputerWorld magazine runs a story on Level 5 Networks, which emerged from the stealth startup status with its own brand of network cards and software called EtherFabric. The company claims they are reducing the load on the servers CPUs and improve the communications between the servers. And it's not vaporware: 'The EtherFabric software shipping Monday runs on the Linux kernel 2.4 and 2.6, with support for Windows and Unix coming in the first half of next year. High volume pricing is $295 for a two-port, 1GB-per-port EtherFabric network interface card and software, while low volume quantities start from $495.'"

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Is There a Place for a $500 Ethernet Card? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868735)

Yes, there is a place for a $500 ethernet card, far, far away from this guy. [fiftythree.org]

Re:Is There a Place for a $500 Ethernet Card? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869062)

pffft.... they don't have an ipod killer.
They just lost my business.


It's only funny if you see the site.

A look into the past (5, Insightful)

bananahead (829691) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868739)

This sounds very similar to the 'smart card' concept back in the late 80's and early 90's. Intel had the 586-driven smart-cards, and I believe 3Com had them as well. They were intended to offload the CPU by putting parts of the stack on the card. They failed because the performance gain and CPU offload numbers were never enough to justify the price difference.

I wonder what has changed? I have never known the CPU to get dragged down by network traffic, but maybe in the network server markets it is different, However with the Ethernet chipsets being designed into the motherboard and integrated into the tight circle of RAM and CPU, it isn't clear there is a need for this.

How long before the network control is put into the CPU? It is going to be tough to beat that type of performance.

Re:A look into the past (3, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868856)

The only time I've heard of that was with Ethel, an Apple II ethernet card. It used a PIC that ran the TCP/IP stack, and fed stuff to the A2.

Of course, the A2 is perfectly capable of running it's own TCP/IP stack - Uther doesn't do any of that, IIRC, and nor does the LANceGS (although, it seems that the LANce can only do pings on the //e - either that, or it just costs too much).

Re:A look into the past (5, Interesting)

bluelip (123578) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868863)

I've noticed a slowdown in computer response when using gig cards and moving lotsa' data. I thought the bottleneck may have moved to the file systems. Didn't seem to be the case as pumping dummy data throught the nic also caused issues.

I didn't pursue it far enough to see where where the actual problem was. These cards may help, but my money is on a faster cpu.

Re:A look into the past (3, Interesting)

creimer (824291) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869037)

Jerry Pournelle had a column in the February 2005 issue of Dr. Dobb's Journal about Gigabit hardware. If you have a Gigabit PCI card, expect to see a doubling of speed over 100Mb PCI card. If the motherboard has a built-in Gigabit port, you can see a five to six times speed over 100Mb PCI card or port. PCI cards are limited by the PCI bus, but built-in ports have direct access.

Re:A look into the past (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868895)

With part of the stack of the network card you are less likely to get more common exploits methinks. I would pay gladly for a card like this for the added 'security'.

Re:A look into the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868922)

With part of the stack of the network card you are less likely to get more common exploits methinks. I would pay gladly for a card like this for the added 'security'.

Me too. I'd easily pay $2000 for a 4-port card like this for my servers! After all, what hacker can modify hardware?!

I just wish I could buy today, but I'm gonna put in my order ASAP! It'll save me tons over the next few months. Yahoo!!!

Re:A look into the past (3, Informative)

PONA-Boy (159659) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868933)

Back when our company was running ATM on the backbone and in our HQ offices, all of the FORE HE155 NIC's were "smart". That was also due, in part, to the particular nature of ATM. The NIC's handled their own routing in addition participating in LANE and PNNI services. Very little of the network load was actually handled by the server themselves. It was really very nice and the NIC's themselves were more than $600 a pop.

Load on our servers from network processing increased easily by 20% when we moved to an all Ethernet/IP setup. $500 for a "smart" NIC, hell yeah! As much as my boss may chide me about it, I sill lament the loss of ATM in our network.

-PONA-

Re:A look into the past (1)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868973)

If you use an nforce motherboard under linux, you have to set it to high throughput or low cpu use.

It causes studdering audio and other funky stuff on one of the settings. that was the nforce 1 I believe on RH8 and RH9 perhaps. I have not tested in a long while though. The issue showed up on windows at one point too. It could be poor drivers.

spend the money on more CPU, not specialized stuff (4, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868993)

. Intel had the 586-driven smart-cards, and I believe 3Com had them as well. They were intended to offload the CPU by putting parts of the stack on the card.

You're probably thinking of the i960-based cards, though Intel's PRO series adapters (not i960 based) do something similar (TCP checksumming is now builtin to the chipset and most OS drivers now know how to take advantage of that). That processor, and variants, were used in everything from network cards to RAID controllers.

They failed because the performance gain and CPU offload numbers were never enough to justify the price difference.

Ding ding ding. I forget who said it (maybe Alan Cox, but I'm REALLY not sure about that), but the opinion was along the lines that it would always be more benefitial to throw the money at a faster processor (or a second processor etc), because you'd get a performance boost everywhere. $300 buys quite a bit extra CPU horsepower these days, and there's no need for the hassles of custom drivers and such. Nowadays CPUs are just so damn fast, it's also not really necessary.

Re:A look into the past (2, Informative)

X (1235) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869007)

I wonder what has changed? I have never known the CPU to get dragged down by network traffic, but maybe in the network server markets it is different

The thing that has changed is that the frequency that frames arrive at has gone up. Unless you can use jumbo frames (and even then, if the payloads are small), GigE is delivering the same sized frames as fast ethernet, just 10x faster. This tends to create a hell of a lot more interrupts for the processor to handle (a condition made worse by the deeper pipelines in processors like the P4). If you can offload the processing of the frames a bit, just enough to give a processor a chance to get something done, you could dramatically improve performance.

That being said, changes to the protocol (such as jumbo frames) can also have a positive effect in a lot of circumstances, and have the advantage of being cheaper to implement.

Re:A look into the past (2, Informative)

llzackll (68018) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869019)

There are a lot of Cards that do this now. You can get a 3com 3c905c, which does at least partial offloading, for about 20 bucks.

Re:A look into the past (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869084)

It's not exactly uncommon when you get into high load non-pc derived devices.

Take for instance the APX-8000..

This beast has a dialup port density that will serve an entire small town.

The ethernet controller has it's own intel risc processor... though the versions I had were using the older cast of that cpu which looks like a pentium die cast. (newer ones are the size of a pinky)

Looks like they salvaged parts from the ascend/lucent max series to build one. (the early units were interesting)

In any event, the point being, it's not uncommon to have an entire ethernet controller dedicated to doing all of the works... it's just a bit different then the norm in PC land.

Sure there's a place for them (5, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868742)


Is There a Place for a $500 Ethernet Card?

Of course there is, assuming the card performs as advertised. Sheer conjecture: the card likely has a lot of the smarts onboard. Maybe it has some of the TCP and IP stuff on board too (checksum, etc). Compare that to a crapbox $10.95 RealTek[a] card which generates interrupts like mad because it has no smarts and you'd probably be very suprised. (Think of comparing a decent hardware modem to a software based WinModem.)

[a] I had a sales-drone at Computer Boulevard here in Winnipeg just RAVE about RealTek cards. I said I really wanted 3 Intel or 3COM cards for a new work proxy server and he said 'Why? RealTeks are way cheaper and run at the same speed!' Retard.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

nfdavenport (599530) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868775)

Think of comparing a decent hardware modem to a software based WinModem

*shudder* I try not to.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868781)

Heh, I was just trying to draw an analogy :)

Re:Sure there's a place for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868987)

Haven't you noticed, /. readers don't understand analogy.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

Foktip (736679) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868800)

Since there is Linux support, yes.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

salimma (115327) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868803)

Amazing. You'd think he'd be more than happy to sell more expensive items to you. Maybe he's trying to build your trust so he can pull a sleight-of-hand later? Or he really thinks RealTek cards are better. Ugh.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868981)

I really think he though they were equal to or better than the Intel & 3Com cards and was just trying to save a dumb customer some money. His motives were fine just misguided.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869031)

Perhaps he just didn't have anything better than a $10.00 RealTek. Not many sonsumer-level users have the kind of network load that makes a 3Com card worth the money.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

njcoder (657816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868823)

From the article I couldn't tell how this different from TCP/IP Offload Engines (TOE). Looks like there are a bunch of companies coming up with TOE implementations, is this going to be a product that fails once the TOE standards come out?

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868923)

Uh - what TOE standards...

The standard it TCP - has been around for 20 years or so, not likely to change much.

What you might be thinking about are these abominations called RDMA protocols coming out of the RDMAC (Remote DMA - think about it and shudder) - the idea with strict TOE is that external to the box, you can't tell it is running TOE or just a BSD networking stack (or your favorite flavor of TCP anyway)

Re:Sure there's a place for them (2, Informative)

pchan- (118053) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868989)

This is different from a TCP/IP offload engine in one critical feature: it is designed so that the network interface is run directly out of user-space, without involving the kernel. It may still do the network stack in software, but it does it in-process. This means that there is no copying from/to userspace and no context switch for every read or write. When you're handling gigabit-speed traffic, this becomes a big issue. Just like video players today use special OS features to open a video port directly to the graphics card without routing it through the windowing system, this does the same with network data. Obviously, you and I won't be buying this thing, unless you happen to work in an environment where you have massive network traffic.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

njcoder (657816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869044)

Yeah but does anyone know if this is going to be better/worse than the TOE cards from people like Chelsio which Novell and Sun seem to be partnering with?

Deja Vu Mainframe days (2, Interesting)

justsomecomputerguy (545196) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868843)

Back in the early-mid 80's (and probably even before then) IBM mainframes using SNA instead of TCPIP used special networking processors that handled all of that "networking stuff" so that the mainframe CPU (which really was a "unit" and not just a single chip) could just concentrate on running its jobs and not be interrupted by the communications end of things. Everything old is new again. Same situation, just smaller and faster (CPU and helper communications card take up 1U in a rack instead of 1 whole corner of the head end room).

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868986)

The fact is that RealTek and the likes are very much responsible for the proliferation of ethernet on inexpensive desktop PCs.

Sure, you may not like them very much because their equipment is cheap, but in order to put $300 PCs into homes, you're going to need to cut corners somewhere, and thankfully we were able to support broadband in the process.

Although I'd rather have a 3com in a server, I honestly don't see the huge benefits of having premium network gear anymore. The divide between the Premium and Cheap stuff has become very narrow, even though the price gap has grown wider.

Re:Sure there's a place for them (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869086)

wrong. i have a realtek on my 486 linux router and dmesg is full of "eth0: TOO MUCH WORK AT INTERRUPT". and i have a 512k dsl.

imagine what happened when I used (boss' orders) a onboard 8139 on a server. yes. 10 users and it goes mad with too much work. that server has been running over a year already with a 3C905C and not a single problem. tcp offloading really helps in that situation too.

bad analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869003)

My desktop p4 with a USRCourier gets lousy throughput compared to this pII softmodem laptop.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868750)

first post?!?!

yes there is a place for it (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868751)

right inside my computer :)

My Answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868753)

No.

Move along please.

Short answers: PHB's (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868763)

Short answer;

Where there are PHB's, there is overpriced hardware.

Shorter answer: Geeks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868937)

Uh, huh. sure. [hexus.net]

yes, there is (3, Informative)

commo1 (709770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868765)

Million dollar PCs (sans gold-plating) and (quite seriously) mission-critical blade servers, customer ip routers, etc.... I have clients that pay upwards of $600 canadian now (though that's for quad cards with ample on-board processing to off-load from cpu horsepower).

Re:yes, there is (1)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868939)

But at $500, and running linux, it's like having a router in my PC. I could be wrong, but this allows me to make my media center PC a firewall and router... all kinds of stuff.

Not that I own a media center PC - but I suspect this type of thing will catch on with the geeks if they can login to it.

What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1, Insightful)

kc32 (879357) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868767)

if your internet connection is anything less than fiber, which is about 99.9% of all connections? Not to mention the fact that not many computers can actually handle that much data at once anyway.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1)

MonoNexo (843458) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868793)

If you RTFA, you'll figure out this is not currently targeting Average Joe with his Dell computer - they are talking to servers, workload clusters, etc. In that case, there is a use for "such a fast Ethernet card".

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (0, Offtopic)

Jimbookis (517778) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868818)

If you RTFA...

You must be new here.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1)

MonoNexo (843458) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868831)

Not that new, but nieve never-the-less.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (2, Funny)

cujo_1111 (627504) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869061)

And you can't spell, you will fit right in...

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1)

djdavetrouble (442175) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868832)

if your internet connection is anything less than fiber
um,
you _do_ know that people use networks without having to connect to the 'internet', right ? Some type of real time type database thingy like a stock market or a really kick ass low latency lan party. In conclusion, yes there is a place for a $500 whachacallit, card.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (3, Insightful)

Phroggy (441) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868835)

if your internet connection is anything less than fiber, which is about 99.9% of all connections?

The other 0.1%, obviously.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (5, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868839)

if your internet connection is anything less than fiber, which is about 99.9% of all connections? Not to mention the fact that not many computers can actually handle that much data at once anyway

Listen, when I've got 30 web servers banging away on a single database server, I want each web server in and out as quickly as possible. Every bit of the handshake, query, and results is going to wrap up that much faster if things are faster, period. When you're dealing with a huge data-driven e-commerce site, where every page renders around a hundred or more queries, and there are dozens or hundreds of concurrent page views, this stuff really counts in the aggregate.

If you sell one more widget per day, all year long, because your web presentation layer is just a little more snappy, that's sure as hell going to pay for a $500 NIC.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (4, Insightful)

njcoder (657816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868920)

" When you're dealing with a huge data-driven e-commerce site, where every page renders around a hundred or more queries, "

Each page renders a hundred or more queries? Sounds like you're better off investing in a better design than better hardware.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1, Informative)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869043)

Each page renders a hundred or more queries? Sounds like you're better off investing in a better design than better hardware.

It's a farm of servers that looks at incoming requests and renders the pages based on the host header name. The same boxes might be serving up transactional content for a couple dozen businesses off of a common code base, with all of them having wildly different look/feel and behavior. Much of what differentiates one merchant's presentation from another is data driven, to say nothing of a page that must pre-calculate municipal tax rates for each of maybe a hundred different types of items on an order, take into account the shopper's account status, order history, affiliate referals... to say nothing of real-time inventory availability checked on every page load, multi-language and currency behavior, intrusion and fraud detection, item kitting, etc. Grabbing a hundred scraps of data from the underlying database (including session management, and all sorts of other housekeeping, including writes traffic logging) is actually pretty minimal when you consider what it's all doing.

Add on top of that the layers that have to monitor all of that activity for the company that's running all of this for those merchants (and reporting to them on traffic, visitor search behavior in real time, and so on) and you'll see what I mean. So, sure, slightly faster 1GB ethernet cards can definately help out. Would a few slightly better designed stored procedures help? Maybe a tiny bit. But really complex online selling through a managed service with lots of users... there's a certain amount of complexity that can't be designed away.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868985)

when I've got 30 web servers banging away on a single database server

Sounds like your database server is in the critical path, not your webservers.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869065)

Sounds like your database server is in the critical path, not your webservers.

Well, sure. The database is the most critical thing. It performs find, as will its hot standby if it pukes. The point of my comment is that we're doing business on the rig in question, and if the web servers can have a marginally faster conversation with the database server(s), then that's a good thing. When you're handling thousands of orders a day through the system, even a few people wandering off because a page is a little sluggish is something worth spending some money on.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869026)

Perhaps, but I doubt that 1 sale per day will offset the costs you will incure to set it up properly, maintain it, and get a backup quickly when your network card crashes, or when joe hacker finds a security exploit in the card somewhere.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869085)

Perhaps, but I doubt that 1 sale per day will offset the costs you will incure to set it up properly, maintain it, and get a backup quickly when your network card crashes, or when joe hacker finds a security exploit in the card somewhere.

I can't comment on the product in question, just on the notion of faster interaction between the front and back ends of the system. Faster is always better.

As for selling more widgets... a typical transaction (in the case of the system I'm talking about, here) can range from perhaps $100 to $5000. So, if we can land 10 or 20 more of a set of those transactions, we're talking about a noticeable difference. Certainly enough to pay for swapping out a NIC. If the product is crap, of course, or a pain in the ass to actually put to work, well, I wouldn't do it any farther than the workbench.

Re:What good is such a fast Ethernet card... (1)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869021)

The cards are running gigabit. What type of physical stuff your layer 1 is is irrelevant and you still have the speed hits associated with ethernet and IP above that.

latency (1)

j_dot_bomb (560211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868779)

They mention latency without saying what it is in the press release. I couldnt find it on the site. Maybe the tech docs have it. They compare it to Myrinet without saying what the latency is. It could be great. It could be crap.

Re:latency (1)

chill (34294) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869040)

From their website:

Low Latency - EtherFabric provides sub-10 usec (micro-second) latencies between application instances on different servers, improving application-to-application inter-server communication by 3-5x over conventional Ethernet.

http://www.level5networks.com/prod_etherfabric.htm [level5networks.com]

These things will be commonplace in the future... (1)

bigmanjq (824222) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868782)

They may even be integrated onto the motherboard and cost very little, relative to what we pay for standard onboard ethernet today. That is, if the technology is as good as advertised. If not, it will fade away from the memory of /.ers everwhere. The market will justify whether it is a quality product and worth the money. If it is, it will be mass-produced, competition will increase, and prices will fall!

Re:These things will be commonplace in the future. (1)

cujo_1111 (627504) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869090)

That is, if the technology is as good as advertised. If not, it will fade away from the memory of /.ers everwhere.

Not necessarily true, there are /.ers that still go on about Blu-Ray discs.

Specific acceleration cards nothing new (2, Insightful)

Sv-Manowar (772313) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868784)

This isn't exactly an entirely new concept. Intel have been selling their ethernet chips with built in SSL accelerators for quite some time, and the advantage of offloading duties from the software to the hardware (see Intel etherexpress vs RealTek style cards) is obvious. Whether these cards offload enough of the normal duties of a typical cluster node to be worthwhile should be interesting to see, as there are a wide variety of cluster load types and obviously these cards will have a niche to fit into alongside their competitors in the diverse set of demands around cluster networks. As for the price tag, I seem to remember gigabit cards being extremely expensive a few years back, and its probably pretty competitive with where they're aiming this product, alongside myrinet and infiniband.

Knock-Offs (4, Insightful)

randomErr (172078) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868792)

I give Realtek 6 months tops to make thier own knock-off of the card for $24.95.

I doubt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868799)

Frankly, now even moderately priced Ethernet card do at least some TCP Offload and buffering. I was surprised to see that the Marvell Yukon PCIe onboard chip on my new consumer motherboard did it.. Even on a seriously loaded server, I mean the kind of server [max-t.com] that can output 1.8 Gbit/sec over a bonded link using samba, there isnt that much load on the CPU.

This is the kind of product that is very cool, that was built by engineers without looking at the market needs. I would have no pity piting it against a good network card like an Intel, 3Com or Tigon3 and it would be VERY VERY hard to justify the price difference. At that kind of price, you can get myrinet which will get you a different kind of performance (2.4Gpbs per link.. up to 2 per card internally bonded .. and latency mesured in microseconds, not milliseconds..)

Is There a Place for a $500 Ethernet Card? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868802)

The Pentagon.

I think there is definately a market for this... (5, Insightful)

Famanoran (568910) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868808)

But not necessarily where the vendors think it is.

Back when I was working at a startup developing anti-DDoS technology, one of the biggest problems we were faced when implemented GigE, was the load on the PCI bus. (This was before we started using PCI-X).

It depends on exactly how customisable the network card software is, but if you could plonk a couple of those into whatever system you wanted - and if the cards themselves could do, say, signature detection of various flood types, or basic analysis of traffic trends then that is a very definite market.

I realise the core issue is not addressed (if your physical pipe is full, then you're fucked), but it takes the load of dropping the malicious packets off the host CPU so it can attempt to service whatever valid traffic actually gets through.

And then there is IP fragmentation. Bad fragments? Perhaps a dodgy fragmentation implementation in the stack? (you know which OS I mean) Lets just drop that before the host sees it and crashes.

I don't know, I can't find any real information describing what they do, but I can certainly see uses for this.

NCP (1)

sysadmn (29788) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868811)

Wonder how if differs from Sun's Network Coprocessor [sun.com] , which used an onboard 16 MHz M68000 to offload TCP packet processing from the mighty 40 MHz SPARC processors in an SS690. Sounds like the Level 5 company's product (not Level 3, as the intro implies) also includes "improved" networking protocols that are supposed to be compatible.

Linux before Windows (3, Interesting)

mepperpint (790350) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868812)

It's nice to see a piece of hardware that ships with linux drivers and promises Windows support later. So frequently applications and hardware are first supported under Windows and occasionally ported to other platforms.

Re:Linux before Windows (1)

E-Rock (84950) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868857)

Unfortunately is on a product that may not have any market. :(

High Performance Computing applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868813)

The big place this will be beneficial is high performance computing solutions that currently use low latency application networks like Myrinet or Infiniband. By offloading the networking to the NIC, you free the CPU from having to handle the traffic and actually crunch numbers. Also, it allows you to use commodity gigabit switches rather than specialized, low volume Infiniband or Myrinet switches.

It would take a 4GHz processor to process the data involved in a 10Gb connection without this offload technology...THAT is why there is room for $500 network card.

Apple fiber (1)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868822)

Apple has fiber NICs as an option in the G5 Powermac, they are $500 and if none were noving, they likly would ditch them or lower the price...

Re:Apple fiber (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868935)

Correction, Apple has 2Gb Fibre Channel HBA's they offer for $500. There is a difference. If it makes you feel any better, I believe they include support for TCP/IP in addition to SCSI over Fibre Channel. FYI - Fiber refers to optical only, Fibre can mean optical or copper. The Apple HBA's ship with copper cables but you can use 2Gb SFP's and fiber cable with them as well.

Re:Apple fiber (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869023)

And what does that have to do with anything? Fiber HBAs and NICs have been available for years on almost every platform.

A network card for gamers too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868829)

So I wonder how this compares to this product by Bigfoot Networks [bigfootnetworks.com] . They won the moot corp contest, but it seems like someone beat them to it. They seem to want to make a network card like this, but for gamers. It seems like a similarly awful idea to me.

A rose by any other name... (4, Insightful)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868842)

The name Level 5 refers to the network protocol stack where level 5 delivers data from the network to the application, according to Karr. The company isn't concerned about any potential confusion with Internet Protocol telecom Level 3 Communications Inc. On the contrary, he quipped, "It's working in our favor. People say, 'Yes, we've heard of you. You're a big company.'"

As lawyers at Level 3 begin salivating at thought of all of the potential lawsuits.

There is a place in an NFS environment (4, Insightful)

crusty_architect (642208) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868846)

We use Filers for storage at Gigabit speeds. Compared to our SAN/FC evironments, we see much higher CPU utilisation on our Sol 8 boxes, especially when attempting to get to Gigibit speeds.

sorry, no (1)

dangermen (248354) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868848)

Sorry, no. Intel and Broadcom have this sewn up. Why would we want to have to put ANOTHER network card driver through its paces?

Day late and a dollar short. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868850)

InfiniBand is the answer for whatever problem this is attempting to solve.

It is less import today then it was 10 years ago. (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868862)

$500 for a network card you have to have a good reason that you will need it. I am sure there are applications that will utilize it but for the price it may not be worth it. With sub $500 computers coming to age. It is probably cheaper just to split all your services onto smaller boxen and have a load balancing switch/router. Computers are cheap today $500 for a network card is steep and will only fill a niche market. Perhaps if the price was in the $50 range it would be more widely accepted. But with good enough systems at 1k and additional 500 could be used for a faster CPU other then a faster network CPU

Re:It is less import today then it was 10 years ag (2, Insightful)

Desert Raven (52125) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868909)

I highly doubt they're aiming these cards at the general public. The kind of folks who worry about this kind of performance aren't buying $500 computers, they're buying $5,000 + computers, and trying to tweak every ounce of performance out of them. I'm willing to bet my employer is going to look pretty seriously at these cards for some of our heavy-use systems.

Sometimes you can't "split all your services onto smaller boxen and have a load balancing switch/router". Not everything on the network is a web server.

Re:It is less import today then it was 10 years ag (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868914)

Electricity is not free, esp in a datacenter. You should strike out for mid-grade boxen in most applications and be willing to pay a premium for anything that is going to be doing 24/7 traffic like a search engine. The idea of many smaller boxen being the best route is only true in university and research and developement type settings.

Re:It is less import today then it was 10 years ag (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868949)

Your PC is not the target market. Clusters, large datacenters and applications that require communications as close to instantaneous as possible are. $500 is a drop in the bucket with the potential of a huge payback for those installations

Not everything is about Slashdotters home computers.

$100 razors; blades are extra (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868876)

How about they sell it for $100, when you buy the $600:year remote network admin package? Premium packages can include live security monitoring by companies like Counterpane. If you've got a need for network performance like that offered by these cards, you've got a need for sysadmin, including security. Or you've just got too much money.

Re:$100 razors; blades are extra (1)

superatrain (842910) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869013)

well, cause then it would be useless... Someone would crack it or make 3rd party drivers, and then it would be $100 without any monthly/yearly fees!

Moving on up... (1)

OmegaBlac (752432) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868880)

FTA...
"EtherFabric was developed by "four chaps in a garden shed" in Cambridge, England, according to Karr."
Well, at least they move out of their respective mothers' basements. ;)

$500 can't compete, especially today. (1)

Tavor (845700) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868888)

The lower end of computers is going for ~300-400 dollars, from the latest Dull circular mailing I've recieved. How, preytell, is an ethernet card designed to "(reduce) the load on the servers CPUs and improve the communications between the servers" when you can just buy another server for the price of a few of these bad boys?

Re:$500 can't compete, especially today. (1)

Beolach (518512) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868901)

The servers this type of card is meant for are not going for ~300-400 dollars. Closer to ~3000-4000 dollars, likely more.

Re:$500 can't compete, especially today. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868945)

Here are some hints:

1) It's two words,

2) It's spelled "pray tell"

No thanks necessary!

Re:$500 can't compete, especially today. (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868962)

"How, preytell, is an ethernet card designed to "(reduce) the load on the servers CPUs and improve the communications between the servers" when you can just buy another server for the price of a few of these bad boys?"

Depends on what you're doing and why. A company I used to work for did some cool stuff with GigE and real-time image processing. If they can spend $600 to offload some of the CPU cycles to the card, they'd probably have been ecstatic. Anything to squeak out a few more FPS. Adding more boxes to the network wouldn't have done them any good, in this case.

The question is: Are there enough customers like that to generate a decent profit. If so, then they'll do just fine.

Re:$500 can't compete, especially today. (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869069)

$300-400 isn't a real server. At best it makes a disposable print server or workgroup file server. For a real (as in profit generating) server you want reliability and efficiency, and you're not going to get that for $300-400.

Funny you should mention it... (1)

Momoru (837801) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868898)

Level 5 Networks, which emerged from the stealth startup status with its own brand of network cards and software

I just saw a story on slashdot today that related to this [slashdot.org] .

Wheel of Reincarnation (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12868906)

This is all just part of a well-known cycle, with its own jargon file entry [catb.org] . In a few years they're going to be saying, "Hey, CPUs are so fast, it'd be cheaper to build a dumber network card and spend the money upgrading the CPU to compensate" and they're going to say that that's a new idea, too.

Yes, there is a place ... (1)

all yr bass r belong (893681) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868926)

... and all your place are belong to us!!!

Re:Yes, there is a place ... (0, Flamebait)

killa62 (828317) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869050)

it's all your BASE are belong to us
Dumbshit...

Must be a canadian...

What I would do with it (1)

parasonic (699907) | more than 9 years ago | (#12868929)

Etherfabric, aye? I wouldn't even wipe my butt with it.

Exploitable? (1)

ArcCoyote (634356) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869002)

If this becomes popular, we're going to see exploits that pop the OS of the network card and get a bot or backdoor running on it.

Or better yet, tamper with the packets going to the system so they appear trusted.

I'm still waiting to see it happen to all the little bitty Cable/DSL routers.

When you can get eth0 to lie, it's all over.

Re:Exploitable? (1)

bombadier_beetle (871107) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869059)

When you can get eth0 to lie, it's all over.

I think I just found my new sig.

Is there a place? (3, Funny)

ChozCunningham (698051) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869012)

Only one place. Amongst gamers.

"A $500 LAN Card? Oh my God, Stevie, thats almost as much as my GeForce9900XTLSI+ cost!" Said the kid with the Lone Gunmen T-Shirt.*

"That's nothing, This 8-Track-ROM player off of ThinkGeekcost almost a cool grand" Stevie said, as the other nerds bowed around his glowing and chromed Frag Machine.

*Lone Gunmen T-Shirts [thinkgeek.com] coming soon. 8-Track-ROM [thinkgeek.com] 's, too.

Is There a Place for a $500 Ethernet Card? (2, Informative)

sporktoast (246027) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869025)


Sure [amazon.com] there [amazon.com] is [amazon.com] .

In a word, no (3, Interesting)

bofkentucky (555107) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869035)

Take sun, some of their new server kit this year is going to ship 10Gbit/s ethernet on the board, which acording to their docs, is going to take 3 USIV procs to keep the bus saturated (6 cores). But when you are looking at 8 to 64 way server boxes, who cares about those 3 procs, especially when in 24-30 months it will take less than one proc to handle that load (Quad Cored + Moore's Law), and the eventually one thread will have the horsepower.

Surely those smart dudes at Via, AMD, Intel, Samsung, Nat Semi, and/or Motorolla aren't going to:
A) FUD this to death if it really works
B) File patent suit until doomsday to keep it locked up
C) Buy them out
D) Let them wither on the vine and then buy the IP.

Thanks for the ad, been doing this for years (1)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869076)

It's called a TOE card, and companies have been producing them commercially for a few years now.

Sure. About the same market as USD 30K Servers (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869077)

I've had a hard time learning that there is a lot more to computers than a thousand dollar workstation or laptop.

There are a LOT of > USD 10K servers bought every year. If a USD 500 NIC can improve the total performance of such a server by 5%, then yeah it's worth it.

High-Performance Computing (2, Informative)

amjacobs (769757) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869079)

The place where things like TCP offload and RDMA support really matter is the high-end space. The major limitations on building really large clusters is the interconnect. If you look at the top 500 supercomputer list, you'll find that the top computers all use something better than gigabit ethernet. (Mostly Infiniband and maybe Myrinet) The reason for using Infiniband is that the communication latency is around 5us. For comparison , a standard GigE card has a latency around 70us.

That being said, http://www.ammasso.com/ [ammasso.com] makes an Ethernet card (priced around $495, I believe) that utilizes both TCP offload and RDMA. The latency of the cards is around 10us. This is great for people needing a high-performance cluster, but can't afford the Infiniband interconnect.

IPSEC (3, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869096)

If this card can do most of the work of IPSEC for me, it'd be a big win.

My main concern though is that with two ports, how can I be absolutely certain the packet has to go through my firewall rules before it can go anywhere?

Of course, the extra ports could be an advantage. If it could handle all the rules for you, then it might even be capable of functioning as a layer 4 switch and sending out a new IP packet before completely recieving said packet.

But, I'd want all the software on that card to be Open Source.

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