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Mellanox forges switch-hitting ConnectX-3 adapters

The server companion to SwitchX switch chips

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Shiny new cards

A bunch of different adapter cards have already been cooked up by Mellanox engineers. One card has a single 40GB/sec (Quad Data Rate) InfiniBand port, one has two QDR ports, another has one FDR port, and yet another has two FDR ports. There is a card coming out from Mellanox that has one FDR port using QSFP cables and one 10GE port using SFP+ cables. If pure Ethernet is your thing, Mellanox has one card with two 10GE ports with SFP+ cables, another with a single 40GE port with a QSFP cable, and yet another with two 40GE ports with QSFP cables.

Mellanox ConnectX-3 adapter card

A 10GE/40GE adapter card from Mellanox

Mellanox is only beginning its benchmark tests on the ConnectX-3 chips, but Monson says the performance and thermal characteristics of the chips are encouraging. The current ConnectX-2 chips support Ethernet with RoCE extensions have a latency of around 1.3 microseconds per 10GE port compared to something on the order of 5 to 10 microseconds for other commercially available adapters. With the ConnectX-3 chip implemented in an FDR InfiniBand or 40GE port with either RDMA or RoCE turned on will get sub-microsecond latency. And, says Monson, that ConnectX-3 port will consume under 3 watts, which compares favorably to the 8 to 10 watts per port other network interface cards offer today.

The ConnectX-3 chips are supported on the current releases of Linux from SUSE and Red Hat as well as on Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 (including the HPC edition). VMware's ESX 3.5, 4.0, and 4.1 hypervisors Citrix Systems' XenServer 4.1, 5.0 and 5.5 hypervisors will also recognize devices based on these chips. The OpenFabrics drivers for Linux and Windows are also certified on the ConnectX-3 silicon. ®

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