In last week’s blog post, I provided Broadcom’s perspective on the soon-to-be-released Romley-based servers and what it means for the industry.
But before I get started, I want to answer a question about “Romley” and how it relates to Intel’s new Sandy Bridge-EP processor (also on the verge of release). To set the record straight, Romley is actually Intel’s code name for the server platform that employs the Sandy Bridge-EP CPU, so we tend to use them somewhat interchangeably.
In this week’s post, I’d like to focus on another key technology that’s being deployed by network managers and will continue to be instrumental during the Romley cycle. The technology is Network Interface Controller (NIC) partitioning or what is commonly referred to as NPAR.
NPAR is very important because it gives administrators the ability to divide a single “fat” network port into as many as four logical ports and allocate the “fat-pipe” bandwidth into whatever configurations best fit the application. The end benefit is a better allocation of server resources and better management of those resources, both of which contribute to lowering infrastructure and operating costs.
About a year ago, Broadcom introduced a Network Daughter Card (NDC) that delivers either quad-port 1GbE or dual-port 10GbE. The BCM57712-k adapter suddenly gave network administrators the ability to deploy 10GbE on two physical ports or divide the bandwidth into multiple logical ports (up to four per physical port or eight per controller). It’s a very effective solution that tailors network bandwidth to the need at hand. It also allows for dynamic reconfiguration of that bandwidth. NPAR continues to expand into network systems worldwide.
Some of you may be asking, “but do I also have to buy new and expensive NPAR-enabled switches to use that feature?”
The answer is a resounding “no.” The NPAR feature of Broadcom’s 57712-k is switch-independent, it works with ANY Ethernet switch! That means you can use Broadcom’s 10GbE adapters along with your existing fabric switch and pass-through modules alike.
Another benefit of NPAR is that it offers a variety of configurable bandwidth controls that allow each logical port to be configured to limit bandwidth to a maximum, guarantee a certain minimum or allow unused bandwidth to be used on a prioritized basis. Bandwidth allocation is very granular, allowing it to be set in 100Mb/s increments. This level of granularity and flexibility of controls are important because it guarantees bandwidth and quality of service (QoS) for the individual workloads that share a 10GbE port. With NPAR, you can tailor bandwidth based on the workload instead of taking a “one size fits all” approach.
So if you’re upgrading your existing Dell M710HD or M915 blade server, or waiting for the new Romley-based servers to hit the market, be sure to configure it with an NPAR-enabled NDC.