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NEC shows off IO Virtualisation cards

Quoting The Inquirer 

NEC WAS SHOWNING off a neat product at Hot Chips, so called IO Virtualisation. The card in question is very cool, but it has little to do with virtualisation in the sense you are thinking of, think of it more as a PCIe to Ethernet bridge.

The card you see here is a PCIe card with an Altera Stratix II FPGA on it along with some memory and a couple of Ethernet ports. The box on the right is a two slot PCIe chassis with a keyboard, video and mouse port card in it.

NEC IO Virtualization

You take two of these IO Virtualisation (IOV) cards and put one in the computer you want to 'virtualise', and then put another in a remote computer, or as in this case, a simple two slot PCIe box with no real brains to it at all.

The IOV card then pulls all the packets that hit it and sends them across the Ethernet network. The other IOV card then puts the packets back on the network, and you basically can plug in PCIe cards remotely.

If you have a 10GigE network, you can do 4 PCIe lanes with little to no loss of bandwidth, but most likely at an appreciable latency penalty. NEC was demoing a keyboard, mouse and graphics card on the remote box, but you could just as well use any PCIe card you felt like using.

If the connection goes down for whatever reason, the system sees it as a PCIe hot plug disconnect, something it should handle with ease. You lose the functionality of the card, but it should not crash the machine, Redmond coders willing. If you plug in a card remotely or the connection comes back, the IOV sends a hot plug insert event, and things go on from there.

This technology is still in the labs, but is well on it's way to being commercialised. If you have ever been in a server room where space is at a premium, you can see how this would be pretty handy. Add in intelligent Ethernet switching, and you potentially have a device that is swappable with hundreds of servers, one at a time.

I can see this being quite useful for rack dense blade situations, remote control, and IO slot bound applications. I also would not be surprised to see a future iteration of the technology turn up built directly onto the motherboard.

In general, it allows an ivory tower sysadmin to plug things into a server farm that is almost any distance away, do what they need to do, and move on. No case openings, no screwdrivers, and no hassle. If NEC can make it cost effective and shrink it a bit, IOV cards could end up being the next big thing in remote management.

Read the original, here.

Published Tuesday, August 21, 2007 5:51 AM by David Marshall
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