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The evolution and future of Ethernet — is it the perfect predator?


Sharks are so deadly and efficient that they’ve been called “the perfect predator.” That’s why I find it fascinating that they’ve been the top predator in the oceans for literally hundreds of millions of years, and haven’t changed much since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Why not? They didn’t need to! Their basic design was so good that it only needed tweaking to survive while other species in water and on land died out (sorry, dinosaurs) or evolved so much you wouldn’t recognize them from their ancestors. (sorry, creationists)

Sound like any networking technologies you know? While I hesitate to admit this, I’ve been using Ethernet since before some of you were born. Ethernet may not be perfect, but it’s very much like the shark in that aside from improvement over time (higher bandwidth, new kinds of wires) it’s a lot like its ancestors. In fact, I have some “museum piece” computers at home running 10 MbitE that are talking to my 1 GigE hosts.… Read the rest

Honey, 10GigE shrunk the datacenter!


With all the talk about speed and throughput, I think a lot of people look past the most concrete and immediate benefit of 10GigE: more compact, less costly data centers.

Simply put, if each wire can carry 10x the data, you need 1/10 as many wires to connect all your servers and storage devices. The ratio isn’t precise, and it doesn’t extend to network equipment where devices have 24, 48 or more ports, but clearly when you have fewer fatter pipes you can migrate to an infrastructure composed of fewer, but more powerful, routers and switches.

At least in the area of messaging, you can compound this consolidation by replacing racks of servers running messaging software with hardware-based messaging appliances like Solace’s. In terms of workload, each hardware-based router can replace between 10 and 20 middleware servers while providing better performance and predictability. It’s important to note that all those servers running messaging software won’t benefit very much from 10GigE, something I’ll touch on below and covered in great detail yesterday.… Read the rest

10GigE; What will fill the pipes?

It seems to me that every time a new generation of high-capacity networking technology makes its debut, there’s an accompanying list of applications ready to use up all that bandwidth. It’s taken for granted that applications will always find new and creative ways to use up all the available bandwidth. I’ve been disappointed, however, with the list of interesting use cases for 10GigE. It just seems like many are the same old bunch from when 1GigE launched — social networking, video, etc.

Does that mean we’re on the verge of having more bandwidth than we need? Hardly. I believe the new applications that will fill the 10GigE pipes are not entirely new at all – they are mashups of applications, services and trends that already exist, combined in ways that will chew through bandwidth like nothing we’ve ever seen.

Bandwidth Hogs

  • H1. File sharing (Multi-Gigabyte torrent files are getting commonplace)
  • H2.
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Will you and 10GigE live happily ever after?

Over the past few decades we’ve seen network technology evolve from 10 Mbit Ethernet to 10 Gbit, with 40 GigE on the horizon and 100 GigE already being discussed. Is the network outpacing the capabilities of the computer? In many ways, yes.

One of the dirty little secrets of today’s operating systems is that even in multi-CPU hosts all the interrupts from the network have to be processed on a single CPU. This means a single 1 GigE card can overwhelm even the fastest commercial processors available today. So what will 10x the throughput do for your servers if the CPU/OS is the bottleneck? In many cases, the answer is not very much. I think many administrators and architects may be prematurely falling in love with 10GigE when it won’t really solve as many of their problems as they hope that it will.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of applications and environments out there that will benefit greatly from 10GigE.… Read the rest

What exactly is a "message per second"?

In the high-speed messaging world, performance is measured in some number of messages per second. We’ve had some questions via the website and in customer meetings asking us to clarify how we count msgs/sec at Solace. There are two key numbers on the website: 130, 000 msgs/sec and 10 million msgs/sec. For full context on what they mean, read on.

On the surface, it seems pretty simple. If I have an application that sends 100 messages to another application and it takes a second that is 100 msgs/sec. Virtually all messaging benchmarks work this way, some number of messages pass from one application to another through a messaging system. But not all real-world applications work this way.

When considering guaranteed messaging applications, one in and one out is the typical use case. An order comes in, gets routed and goes out. Sometimes a single message in could result in multiple messages going out, maybe to the end application and a compliance database, but that is not the majority scenario.… Read the rest

You think you've got multicast storms now? Just wait for 10 GigE!

Back in the early days of market data systems, 10 MbE networks were the standard. Multicast from the publisher to the subscriber was a clever way to optimize bandwidth to trading desks, because there just wasn’t enough bandwidth to send the data repetitively to each trader. The emergence of 100 MB and 1 GigE networks resolved some of the bandwidth issues, but the delivery bottlenecks just shifted to the software middleware, so multicast lives on.

But multicast has a dark side. If you want to see any Wall Street or internet infrastructure architect get worked up, ask them about multicast storms. Multicast storms happen when application participants request retransmits of information they have missed in the multicast stream. There are two common causes of multicast storms:

  • Applications that fall behind in their rate of consumption of messages
  • Network speed mismatches in the underlying network.

As market data rates accelerate and trade volumes go through the roof, many people are counting on 10 GigE to bail them out just as things get really hairy.… Read the rest

10GigE enables world's fastest real world market data benchmarks

In Nov 2008, we released a set of benchmarks for ultra-low latency market data distribution. The tests, run on an all-hardware architecture consisting of 1 GigE technology from Solace, Arista and NetEffect, showed the fastest real-world messaging benchmark performance ever seen — until today.

In conjunction with the launch of the new 10 GigE version of our Network Acceleration Blade, we repeated these tests in a 10 GigE environment. In addition to a 10 GigE-equipped Solace 3260 Content Router we used NetEffect 10 GigE adapters to perform TCP offload in the clients and servers, with an Arista 10 GigE cut-through switch as the layer 2 switch.

To provide an apples-to-apples comparison with the previous benchmarks, we reran the test that simulated all US equities traffic (500K msgs/sec) and the test that simulated peak OPRA market data (1 million msgs/sec.)  Then we added to the mix a 2M msgs/sec test to show how performance changes as data rates continue to go up.… Read the rest

Liftoff for 10 GigE content networks

We kick off 10 GigE week with a product announcement. Today Solace announced a new 10 GigE Network Acceleration Blade (NAB), along with some new 10 GigE messaging benchmarks conducted with our partners Arista and NetEffect.

As a recap, the Solace 3260 content router is a high-speed content routing chassis that houses a different set of hardware blades depending on the type of messaging or middleware function your applications require. No matter what type of messaging you’re doing, every blade combination starts with a Network Acceleration Blade or NAB. The NAB is the shared I/O blade that performs a wide range of functions in hardware. Each NAB:

  • terminates Ethernet, IP and TCP in hardware
  • terminates the messaging protocols in hardware
  • can compress WAN traffic in hardware
  • efficiently manages publish/subscribe content fanout
  • tracks detailed statistics about client and server connections, queue depths and message rates without negatively impacting performance

This new announcement is the third NAB (network blade) in the lineup, the first to support 10 GigE networks.… Read the rest

Brace yourself: It's 10 GigE week!

Each summer, the Discovery Channel dedicates a week of programming to Sharks, with the now infamous “Shark Week” celebrating all things Shark.

Here at Solace, we decided that this week will be “10 GigE Week, ” celebrating the emergence of 10 Gigabit Ethernet networks. We’ve blogged about 10 GigE before, but never to the level of depth we will this week.

So if you’re into messaging or middleware, and you’re adopting or planning to adopt 10 GigE, watch this space. You’ll see our architects get a little closer than is safe, or maybe see 10 GigE devour an unsuspecting Infiniband network. The only thing you know for sure about 10 GigE Week is that, just like Shark Week, you don’t want to miss it…check out all the 10 GigE posts (so far!) right now.… Read the rest