The Need for Low Latency, High Performance Ethernet Networks

Ethernet, the Modern Data Center, and Applications Evolve

Nearly fifty years ago in 1973, Bob Metcalfe, working in Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) was tasked in creating a high-speed local area network (LAN) technology for computer workstations to the world’s first laser printers. Since then, the networking technology known as Ethernet has become the dominant protocol in interconnecting data centers and networks around the world.

Celebrating 40 years of Ethernet with Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe and NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang

With new data center hardware technologies evolving over the last decade such as Intel® Xeon® scalable processors, NVMe flash SSDs, and newer PCIe Gen 3 and 4 architectures, they can handle I/O much faster and deliver data at significantly lower latency. At one point, 10GbE networking provided enough bandwidth and speed. However, organizations are now deploying highly virtualized data centers and hybrid cloud architectures running applications such as video streaming, backup and recovery, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and Internet of Things (IoT). To avoid bottlenecks, they are looking to increase network speeds and bandwidth by adopting 25/50/100/200GbE networking solutions.

In 2007, Mellanox (now NVIDIA Networking), developed the first generation of its ConnectX high-speed Ethernet adapters. Since first named as the “Best of Interop 2008,” Mellanox has become the foremost leader in delivering low-latency, end-to-end Ethernet networking solutions

NVIDIA Networking Technologies and Features Meet Today’s Data Center Challenges

To achieve better performance and cost, organizations have transitioned from storage area networks (SANs) to shared nothing, virtualized software-defined storage (SDS) and software-defined networking (SDN) architectures. For example, Microsoft Azure Stack HCI supports NVIDIA ConnectX network adapters to provide advanced acceleration, offload capabilities, and RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) creating an Ethernet storage fabric network backbone that supports up to sixteen-node Azure Stack HCI clusters and improves performance of NVMe-over-Fabrics (NVMe-oF).

ConnectX adapters also offer encryption/decryption hardware acceleration over the network to help increase efficiency in preventing ransomware and malware attacks.

Most organizations that deploy Azure Stack HCI solutions run highly virtualized environments. NVIDIA ConnectX adapters deliver hardware acceleration for virtualized data centers, including virtual switch offloads for SDNs. ConnectX NICs also improve performance with Single-Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV), enabling network traffic to bypass the software switch layer of the virtualization stack. This reduces I/O overhead in the software emulation layer and achieves network performance that is nearly the same performance as in non-virtualized environments. The adapters also feature NVIDIA ASAP2 (Accelerated Switching and Packet Processing®) technology, which allows for offloading a virtual switch or virtual router, resulting in significantly higher Switch/vRouter performance without the associated CPU load.

More and more organizations are implementing machine learning and AI applications that rely heavily on GPUs. NVIDIA ConnectX adapters offer NVIDIA PeerDirect® technology with NVIDIA GPUDirect™ RDMA, enabling direct peer-to-peer communication to GPU memory with no interruption to CPU operations.

NVIDIA ConnectX adapters support PCIe Gen 4 technology, which doubles the bandwidth per lane from 8 GT/s to 16 GT/s and bandwidth per lane in x16 slots from 126 GT/s to 252 GT/s.  This super-fast pipeline increases a server’s data handling capacity to 64 GBytes/s and enhances data access capabilities so that servers will be able to analyze more data, more effectively for real-time insights, and access shared data quicker to fully utilize NVMe drives. It also helps provide a smooth transition for 4K and 8K video, enabling four times sharper video footage and a platform that can manage the traffic for 5G mobile networks.

With each successive generation of ConnectX adapters, NVIDIA Networking continues to evolve and provide solutions that meet the needs of enterprises worldwide. DataON exclusively offers NVIDIA Networking ConnectX adapters and Spectrum switches in its Azure Stack HCI solutions for a complete validated end-to-end networking experience.