Cavium’s latest Ethernet network interface cards (NICs) power hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) products from Windows, VMware, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

Specifically, HPE’s SimpliVity HCI portfolio, which includes bundled software and servers, includes products with NICs based on Cavium’s FastlinQ 8400 series technology. And HCI software, including Microsoft Windows Storage Spaces Direct and VMware vSAN storage, can experience improved scalability and flexibility when running on hardware that includes Cavium NICs, according to Nishant Lodha, technical marketing manager, Ethernet adapter group at Cavium.

“For these software-only solutions we worked with VMware and Microsoft to make sure our networking provides everything that the HCI software requires,” he explained.

HCI systems integrate compute, storage, and networking on commodity hardware. The resulting product is a highly virtualized platform with scale-out architecture. Benefits of these systems include improved agility and reduced complexity — but they require significant networking power. This is where Cavium’s NICs come into the picture.

“Networking plays an important part of hyperconverged infrastructure,” Lodha said, adding that Cavium’s NICs accelerate networking for HCI while offloading server CPU. This allows enterprises to scale virtualized networks without hurting network performance.

Cavium NICs

The company’s NICs come in a range of Ethernet speeds, from 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) to 100GbE. The technology enables adaptive link controls for zero-touch interoperability with industry-wide 25GbE switches and cables, the company says. It also supports a variety of hypervisors including VMware ESXi, Windows Server Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, and KVM.

Additionally, Cavium’s network adapters provide concurrent support for protocols including RoCE, RoCEv2, and iWARP. This allows it to work with various HCI software. “There are significant differences about what is required from a NIC if you compare VMware vSan and MS storage,” Lodha said.

The NICs also make the storage component of HCI systems run faster with concurrent offloads for several storage protocols — NVMe-oF, NVMe-Direct, SMB Direct, iSER, iSCSI, and FCoE. This delivers up to 5 megabits input/output operations per second (IOPS) while consuming fewer CPU cycles, according to the company.

Pushing into HCI

As the hyperconverged market continues to grow — HCI sales increased 68 percent in the third quarter of 2017 compared to the previous year, generating $1 billion in revenue, according to IDC — Cavium plans to extend its reach into this popular data center sector and work with additional HCI vendors.

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