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Linux-based iSCSI accelerator goes embedded

Apr 29, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

[Updated May 5] — At Interop this week, iSCSI specialist 4Blox is demonstrating an embedded Linux version of its flagship software accelerator stack. Running on AMCC's PowerPC-based 440SPe processors under Denx's embedded Linux distribution, the “4Mezzo” software offers a lower-cost, cooler-running alternative to… hardware offload cards, the company claims.

4Blox claims its 4Mezzo software betters iSCSI performance by threefold, relative to CPU utilization. Thus, it positions the product as an alternative to hardware add-ons that offload network processing chores from the main system processor. Compared to hardware add-ons, 4Mezzo saves equipment cost, and reduces power and cooling requirements, according to the company.

4Mezzo in typical SAN environment

Running as an OS-level software component, 4Mezzo intermediates between the iSCSI and TCP protocols, reducing CPU utilization associated with block reads and writes. The company claims the software works on both hosts and initiators, costs less than iSCSI Host Bus Adapters (HBAs), and supports guest OSes running on virtual machines. It is not clear whether the software has to run on both sides of the wire in order to work.

AMCC 440SPe architecture
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4Blox announced 4Mezzo software last fall, and is currently beta-testing it on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The version being demonstrated at Interop runs on the Denx Linux distribution bundled with AMCC's RAID-accelerated PowerPC-based 440SPe SoC (system-on-chip) processor.

AMCC / 4Blox booth
(Click to enlarge)

Tehuti Networks 10GbE TN7585-D NIC
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Little detail was provided about the 440SPe-based SAN server used in the demo, other than its use of a Tehuti Networks TN7585-D Network Interface Card (pictured at right) supporting 10GbE connectivity. The demonstration is intended to show that significant performance improvements can be achieved with 10GbE iSCSI SANs using commodity hardware, 4Blox said.

Stated Dan Munro, CEO of 4Blox, when 4Mezzo was announced last year, “The traditional approach to improving iSCSI performance is to throw additional hardware at it which increases the need for power and cooling. Our software approach offers comparable performance by reducing the host CPU burden.”


The companies are demonstrating their combined storage connectivity solution through May 1 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas at AMCC's Interop booth (#458). 4Blox did not reveal pricing or availability of the embedded Denx version of 4Mezzo, but its Red Hat Linux version is currently shipping in beta for its iSCSI target version, with the OS initiator version due to ship this quarter.

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