Giganet touts potential of IP over Ethernet

As the debate continues to rage over the viability of a single IP network vs. a combined IP/Fiber Channel network, server network technology company Giganet Inc. on Monday will announce the industry’s first VI (virtual interface) intended to double IP traffic over Ethernet networks.

A hardware solution in the form of a standard Ethernet networking card, the Giganet VI makes it possible for applications to bypass the operating system and send data directly to other devices located in the same data centre, such as NAS (network attached storage), according to Gareth Taube, vice-president of marketing at Giganet, based in Concord, Mass.

In the same manner that a DSL runs dual transmissions over the same wire, the Giganet VI solution connects node-for-node to a company’s existing Ethernet, differentiating VI messages from the IP messages. The operation is embedded in a standard TCP/IP-based frame and runs over the same wire and through the same switches.

The result, according to Giganet, is a leveraging of existing network infrastructure investments, and a doubling in application throughput while using one-fifth of the computing resources required had the data been sent via the operating system.

“You involve the operating system during the setup time, but once you have it set up, you are free to move data from machine to machine without involving the operating system,” explained Dave Wells, the director of new market development at Giganet.

“When you set up a connection between computers using VI, you give the application the ability to write directly to the networking hardware without involving the operating system. You call a routine that says I want to send this data, and the networking hardware does the job of moving the data rather than the operating system,” Wells said.

Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group, thinks the timing of the Giganet announcement against the current industry backdrop positions the VI technology for rapid adoption.

“I think it’s a giant leap,” Duplessie said. “The benchmarks that Giganet can show offer data transfer rates at near wired speed-as fast as the wire is rated-while only consuming 10 per cent of the CPU cycles to do it.”

Continued Duplessie: “What it implies is if the adoption of VI occurs, companies will be able to use their existing IP infrastructure, including everything from the switches to the hubs, all the things they are already familiar with, and be able to build extremely high performance data networks. Quite frankly, the news blew my mind.”

The Giganet VI Ethernet networking cards will ship with a price tag similar to that of a standard Ethernet card, but will not be available until the first quarter of 2001, according to Taube.