Adaptec Takes Steps Into Networking Sector

Accelerator card offloads TCP/IP processing.

Adaptec Inc. is moving further from its storage roots and into the networking arena with the launch of a network accelerator card that offloads TCP/IP processing from Intel Corp.- or Advanced Micro Devices Inc.-based Linux servers.

The Adaptec NAC 7711 adapter is targeted at high-performance computing applications where latency introduced by TCP/IP protocol processing creates bottlenecks.

Those applications address vertical markets such as oil and gas exploration, bioinformatics, scientific computing, and finances. Genome analysis and real-time analysis of financial data, for example, are network-intensive, and even with Gigabit Ethernet, there are many bottlenecks as a result of the TCP/IP overhead, said a spokesman for Adaptec, in Milpitas, Calif.

"[Adaptecs] network accelerator is enabling our genome research team to perform more tests, in some cases doubling the number of jobs and accelerating our research," said Ann Pace, assistant director of the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering at the University of California, in Santa Cruz.

Adaptec is also targeting horizontal applications such as high-end databases, data backup and restoration, file serving, and network-attached storage.

The NAC 7711 is a Gigabit Ethernet adapter with an on-board ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chip that offloads TCP/IP protocol processing from Linux servers operating in a grid or cluster. The ASIC, dubbed the TOE (TCP/IP Offload Engine), lowers the latency of the adapter by as much as 40 percent compared with existing network interface cards, according to Adaptec officials. The NAC 7711 works best for computing clusters that have a sustained TCP connection and exchange large amounts of data. It addresses the latency introduced by interprocess communications between nodes that share a computing task.

However, the NAC 7711 is not intended to accelerate TCP/IP processing of Web servers, which typically exchange small amounts of data and do not have a sustained TCP connection.

"You are effectively adding another processor to your server to do a specialized task. For certain TCP/IP-based activities, you get better performance and lower latency," said James Opfer, an analyst at Gartner Inc.s storage group, in San Jose, Calif.

NAC 7711 will compete with a similar offering from Alacritech Inc., which also markets a TOE.

Adaptecs NAC 7711 is due out this week and is priced at $995 for a fiber-optic version and $895 for a copper version.

It supports Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux 7.x and 8.0.