Mellanox Accelerates Low-Latency Networking

Networking vendor Mellanox is raising the bar on data center performance by lowering network latency for applications.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jan 9, 2012
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Mellanox today announced a new version of its network messaging accelerator, VMA 6.0, which helps to deliver UDE latency of 1.4 microseconds and TCP latency of only 1.7 microseconds. The VMA 6.0 is a software product for Linux servers that works in concert with Mellanox's ConnectX-3 adapter cards. The ConnectX-3 has support for up to 56 Gbps Infiniband and 40 Gbps Ethernet connectivity.

"Typical TCP and UDP packets go through the operating system kernel which adds overhead and latency," Gilad Shainer, senior director, market development at Mellanox Technologies, told InternetNews.com. "VMA does a complete bypass and goes directly to the interconnect side and does TCP/UDP connection from userspace which allows you to do latency reduction."

According to Shainer, no application changes are required to get the benefit of the latency improvements. The key application vertical being targeted by Mellanox is high-speed trading applications where microseconds mean money.

The system is focused on Linux because it is often used for financial trading systems. For example, Red Hat Enterprise Linux powers a number of financial exchanges including the New York Stock Exchange.

"We have a full relationship with all of the major Linux distributors," Shainer said. "VMA today only supports Linux, it doesn't support Windows yet."

The VMA 6.0 solution reduces latency by at least 30 percent in contrast to previous generations of the product. The plan is to continue to try and reduce latency in every future release. "At some point you're going to hit a wall," Shainer said. "Even if the interconnect itself had zero latency you'd still have other physical things that would cause latency."

Shainer noted that with the ConnectX-3 adapter there is still some room for improvement as well and Mellanox is committed to reducing latency from the network perspective as much as is possible.

The VMA solution itself is one that Mellanox acquired as part of its acquisition of networking vendor Voltaire in November of 2010 for $218 million.

"VMA was originally developed by Voltaire that we've brought into Mellanox and we continue to make enhancements to it," Brian Sparks, senior director of marketing at Mellanox, told InternetNews.com.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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