Virtualization Technology News and Information
NetXen Unveils First Programmable I/O Architecture for Server Virtualization
NetXen, Inc., the leader in multi-protocol 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) technology, today introduced a complete I/O architecture that unleashes the potential of server virtualization. Based on new functionality for the company's Intelligent NIC(TM) family, the NetSlice(TM) architecture dramatically improves a server's I/O performance by supporting multiple virtual I/O channels. By offloading network interface tasks from the host server, the NetSlice architecture allows datacenters to greatly increase server consolidation with virtual machine (VM) scalability -- one of the primary goals of server virtualization strategies.

Because NetXen's new I/O virtualization architecture leverages the company's programmable Intelligent NIC, datacenters get a flexible platform that accommodates a wide variety of virtualization schemes. As standards become available for I/O virtualization, the NetSlice architecture can easily adopt them to provide the highest possible performance at each step in the technology's evolution.

"I/O virtualization extends the benefits of server consolidation strategies built upon virtual machines," said Anne MacFarland of The Clipper Group, Inc. "Server consolidation is a common trend in the datacenter, but it can result in I/O contention between VMs, impeding performance. I/O virtualization addresses this issue. That it allows more rapid provisioning and simplified system management is the icing on the cake."

"Virtualization and the convergence of networking, clustering and storage are major drivers in next-generation datacenter networks," observed NetXen's vice president of marketing, Vikram Karvat. "In this environment, Intelligent NICs are the ideal solution because they offer scalability and bandwidth, as well as the flexibility to accommodate changing standards."

The NetSlice architecture introduced today provides a broadly applicable set of functions for I/O virtualization, including support for as many as 1,024 VMs, multiple DMA engines, DMA remapping for PCIe-related activities, interrupt moderation for managing each virtual channel independently, mapping of multiple MAC addresses to the virtual NICs of a given VM, multiple transmit and receive queues dedicated to each VM, and virtual switching and traffic steering based on Layer 2 and Layer 3 packet header information.

NetXen has configured these functions to work with currently available server virtualization hardware and software. Since the industry has yet to establish standards for I/O virtualization, NetXen offers operating-system- specific solutions when necessary. As standardized schemes become available, they can easily be implemented in NetXen's Intelligent NICs via firmware upgrades. Datacenter investments in the new virtualized I/O architecture are thus protected into the foreseeable future.

In addition to introducing the NetSlice I/O virtualization architecture, NetXen is announcing support for VMware's ESX3 system. The new NetSlice I/O architecture works with the ESX3 system to enhance VM scalability.

The ultimate goal of the NetSlice architecture is to optimize the VMs' I/O subsystem for direct access to I/O resources. Ultimately, the VMs will bypass the host-based protocol stacks for nearly all networking functions.

NetXen's Intelligent NIC products with virtualization support are currently shipping to leading server OEMs.

Published Wednesday, October 11, 2006 4:39 PM by David Marshall
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