Feeds

Mmmm, TOE jam: Trev shoves Intel's NICs in his bonkers test lab

If you want to impress me, make kit that 'just works'

High performance access to file storage

Review Tech offerings are rarely "good" to me, merely "less awful than others." In this case, however, I'll be looking at the complete package of Intel networking's efforts - the hardware, software and ongoing support - and might even attribute that word to its efforts. This isn't to say that everything in the Intel networking universe is awesome - I've certainly encountered some weird stuff over the years with its cards. In the majority of cases, however, the answers were to be found on Intel's own support website rather than as esoteric knowledge of the sysadmin mafiosi.

Intel's networking folks serve as stark contrast to my experiences with Nvidia's networking components. There is a special hell reserved for telemarketers and whoever designed the nForce NIC/forcedeth driver combo. I consider it a professional failing as a writer that I cannot create a sufficiently vitriolic phrase to encompass the depth of my discontent with that product. I simply lack the words.

But when it comes to Intel, not only were workarounds or potential fixes posted, but fairly upfront explanations as to why the bad thing was happening were generally posted as well.

Intel in VMware (click to enlarge)

If the fix needed to come from Intel's end, you stood a good chance of getting its networking guys to issue a fix. At the very least, it seemed willing to work with the open source community to make sure that – if we wanted to – we could build a fix on our own.

The end result was hardware that would "just work". When it came to some of the older Gig-E NICs, I would be lying if I said that Intel's offering delivered the highest speed or the lowest latency. Other vendors offered cards with more features, more offloading, and ultimately better performance... if you had everything set up just right.

But those setups were fragile, and they certainly weren't something I was prepared to use in deployments where I knew that the company would end up repurposing that server for some other task down the line. Many a Windows-based database server has ended up a VMware host in the past few years. For me, network card compatibility has proved the number one issue with those conversions.

The old and the new

While I've got a lab full of Intel 1Gbit cards that seem to work in everything, the truth of the matter is most of this stuff is old. Half my inventory consists of Pro/1000 cards that have been in service for over a decade. Until very recently my only 10GbE Intel cards were a pair of XF SR Dual Port Server Adapters, and those are from 2007.

Network Connections

As luck would have it, Intel was convinced to part with some newer cards for testing. I have a pair of X520-DA2s two I250-T4s as well as a pair of X540-T2s. In essence, I have managed to assemble "the evolution of Intel Ethernet networking" for the past decade or so.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Convergence

More from The Register

next story
Seagate brings out 6TB HDD, did not need NO STEENKIN' SHINGLES
Or helium filling either, according to reports
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
USA opposes 'Schengen cloud' Eurocentric routing plan
All routes should transit America, apparently
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.