This articles provides information about the use of TCP offload engines.
Most newer servers now come with a TCP offload engine (TOE) or at least offer it as an option. The M600 dell blades have an RJ11 connector on the motherboard that allows you to add this nifty extra. What is a TOE? A TCP offload engine is a piece of hardware usually on-board or in the form of a PCI card, that takes the CPU load used for networking off the main CPU. TOEs have a small CPU themselves, and the operating system simply redirect the instruction sets normally used for data transfer away from the main CPU to the TOE. So, is it worth getting a TOE?
The answer... It depends. You will only see an improvement if you are moving a serious amount of data. Your standard webserver with a 95% percentile traffic consumption of 5Mbps won't see a performance increase when using a TOE. On the other hand, the media storage server on your network used to store video files most certainly will. The image below is a TOE module for a Dell blade server:
Add-on cards are available as well like the Adaptec ANA-7711LP or dual-port Linux supported Magic2020 HBA. The Adaptec card is designed and supported for Microsoft's iSCSI initiator. If you are not moving a large amount of data, but your are constantly reading and writing data simultaneously, you may also benefit from the use of a TOE.
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