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Customers need more server performance? Try faster Ethernet adapters

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 10/14/2020
Blog Category: cloud-and-data-centers

Would your data center customers like to get more performance from their servers? Try upgrading their Ethernet adapters.

This upgrade can alleviate bottlenecks around the processor, network and storage — and without breaking the bank. That can translate into serious performance gains.

For example, upgrade Ethernet switches from 1GbE to 10GbE, and the same number of servers can support nearly 60% more virtual machines (VMs). CPU utilization rises dramatically, too, meaning your users will get more bang for their processor buck.

These upgrades are not a forklift upgrade. You can upgrade with existing CAT-6A cabling with 10GBASE-T, which is backward-compatible with existing 1GbE networks, and do it at your own pace. Network adapters such as the Intel Ethernet 700 Series network adapters can be deployed on your customer’s existing 1 GbE switch infrastructure.

The numbers work out, too. You can move from a 1GbE switch to 10GbE in your server for less than $800/server, including labor and the network adapter.

An additional upgrade to 25GbE gets even more oomph. Now you can double the number of VMs supported, although this requires new cables and switches. The nice thing about 25GbE is that it too is backwards compatible — with 10GbE. So you can run your servers at 10GbE with SFP+ until you’re ready to upgrade the Ethernet switch.

Scale IT up

If your customers want even more server gains, they can also upgrade their data-center storage and CPUs.

According to figures from Intel, upgrading data-center storage from SATA to NVMe SSD, and also upgrading the Ethernet switch from 1GbE to 25GbE, can deliver big gains. These include the ability to support nearly 260% more virtual machines, as well as the performance to handle over 260% more database transactions.

There’s little point in paying for costly processors if you’re hardly using them. So with the same move, you can also raise a server’s utilization rate. By moving from 1GbE and SATA storage to 25GbE and NVMe SSD, server utilization can increase from a mere 30% to over 80%, according to Intel estimates.

Intel Ethernet adapter E810

Intel Ethernet Adapter E810: from 1 GbE to 100 

On the processor front, your customers can also upgrade their servers to the latest Intel Xeon Scalable processors. According to Intel’s figures, if a baseline (1GbE) server can support 14 VMs, then by replacing the network, you can support 22 VMs. That’s pretty good. But then add 25GbE Intel Ethernet Network Adapter XXV 710 and NVMe Intel SSD DC P4610 Series. Now you can support 36 VMs — a more than 2x improvement.

It’s worth noting that upgrading storage alone won’t cut it. Again, looking at Intel’s numbers, let’s say you simply upgrade a server’s SATA SSD storage to NVMe SSD, but keep the 1GbE Ethernet switch. Your database performance will improve by only 5%, and your server utilization will improve by only 30% to 33%. That’s hardly worth the trouble. The reason: Even SATA drives can saturate a 1GbE switch.

Let’s do the numbers

What’s all this mean in the real world? Here are 2 ways of looking at it:

1) How many VMs your customer can support for a fixed budget.

Let’s say your customer has a fixed IT budget to modernize of $250K/year. Given that figure, how many VMs can they support?

With 1GbE, they can afford to support 182 VMs, and they will need 13 servers. Upgrade that switch to 10GbE, and now they can support 264 VMs on just 12 servers.

In other words, just by upgrading the Ethernet switch, your customers can support 45% more VMs for same budget. Plus, they’ll free up 1 server, which they can then use to either support more VMs or handle some other workload.

2) What it takes to support a fixed number of VMs.

For this perspective, let’s assume your customer needs to support 125 VMs. How much gear will they need to do that? And how much will it cost?

Using 1GbE Ethernet switches, they’d need 9 servers, for a total solution cost of $173K. Upgrade the switches to 10GbE, and now they need only 6 servers, for a total solution cost of $127K.

So that’s a 27% cost savings. Plus, they free up 3 servers.

No matter how you look at it, upgrading Ethernet adapters is a great way to help your customers get more performance from their servers.

Get connected:

> Browse the Intel Ethernet adapters

> Scale IT Up: Compare configurations with Intel’s storage and connectivity comparison tool

> Product guide: Intel Ethernet network adapters

> Move data faster with Intel’s newest Ethernet adapter

> Get your timing right with Intel’s first network adapter optimized for 5G


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