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10G/25G/40G Network Card Comparison

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Posted on December 31, 2019
August 8, 2020
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Hard-wired computer networks still establish a beachhead in networking fields, providing a reliable choice. Network card is considered as one of the most important peripherals in wired networks. A variety of NICs (network interface cards) are available in the market—some are physically similar in appearance but vary in properties and prices. Their similarities and differences will be found through an elaborate comparison. This article will give a comparison and analysis among several network cards of similar types from FS, Intel, and Mellanox at specific rates (10G, 25G, and 40G).

Premise: Major Considering Aspects

In this article, some network cards of the three brands will be compared and analyzed in two main aspects: performance (port configuration, data rate per port, speed and slot width, controller, etc.) & functionality (on-chip QoS and traffic management, iSCSI, NFS, FCoE, RoCE, operating system, etc.), all of which will be presented in each table.

The functionality explanations of NIC are provided as follows:


  • On-chip QoS and Traffic Management: is used to decide how certain application I/O can be handled within the network adapter by identifying the latency-sensitive application and allowing it to bypass application traffic that is not latency-sensitive, which enables users to control end‐to‐end QoS for various host applications using a shared Ethernet network resource.


  • iSCSI: derived from Internet Small Computer Systems Interface, an Internet Protocol (IP)-based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities, which is used to facilitate data transfers over intranets and to manage storage over long distances.


  • NFS: stands for Network File System, a distributed file system protocol that allows a user on a client computer to access files over a computer network, much like local storage is accessed.


  • FCoE: encapsulates Fibre Channel frames over standard Ethernet networks, enabling Fibre Channel to take advantage of 10/25/40GbE networks while preserving its native protocol.


  • Intelligent Offloads: I/O bottlenecks are reduced through intelligent offloads such as VMDq (Virtual Machine Device Queues) and Flexible Port Partitioning, using SR-IOV (Single Root I/O Virtualization) for networking traffic per Virtual Machine (VM), enabling near-native performance and VM scalability.


  • VMDq: creating queues for software-based NIC sharing, which is a silicon-level technology that offloads some of the network I/O management burden from the Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM).


  • SR-IOV: allows a network adapter to separate access to its resources among various network card hardware functions and enables network traffic to bypass the software switch layer of the Hyper-V virtualization stack.


  • iWARP: not an acronym, is a computer networking protocol that implements RDMA for efficient data transfer over Internet Protocol networks. RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) is a direct memory access from the memory of one computer into that of another without involving either one's operating system.


  • RoCE: a network protocol that allows RDMA over an Ethernet network by encapsulating an IB (InfiniBand) transport packet over Ethernet.


The Network Card Comparison of 10GbE NICs

ELX540BT2-T2 and X540-T2 are both dual-port 10GBase-T network adapters, more detailed specifications are summarized in the table below:

ELX540BT2-T2 X540-T2
Port Configuration Dual 10GBase-T Ports Dual 10GBase-T Ports
Data Rate Per Port 10GbE 10GbE
Speed and Slot Width 5.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 5.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes
Controller Intel X540-BT2 Intel X540-BT2
Interface Type PCIe 2.1 PCIe 2.1
Bracket Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height
Functionality
(Supported)
On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS, FCoE On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS, FCoE
Functionality
(Not Supported)
iWARP/RDMA iWARP/RDMA
OS Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, CentOS, UEFI, VMware ESX Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, EFI, VMware ESX, ESXi

FTXL710BM1-F4 and X722-DA4 are both quad-port 10GbE SFP+ network adapters, more detailed specifications are summarized in the table below:

FTXL710BM1-F4 X722-DA4
Port Configuration Quad SFP+ Ports Quad SFP+ Ports
Data Rate Per Port 10GbE 10GbE
Speed and Slot Width 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes
Controller Intel XL710-BM1 Intel C628
Interface Type PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0
Bracket Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height
Functionality
(Supported)
On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS
Functionality
(Not Supported)
FCoE, iWARP, RoCE FCoE, iWARP, RoCE
OS Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, CentOS, UEFI, VMware ESXi Windows, Linux, FreeBSD

JL82599EN-F1, X520-SR1, and MCX4111A-XCAT are all single-port 10GbE SFP+ network adapters, more detailed specifications are summarized in the table below:

JL82599EN-F1 X520-SR1 MCX4111A-XCAT
Port Configuration Single SFP+ Port Single SFP+ Port Single SFP+ Port
Data Rate Per Port 10GbE 10GbE 10GbE
Speed and Slot Width 5.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 5.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes
Controller Intel 82599EN Intel 82599 ConnectX-4 Lx
Interface Type PCIe 2.0 PCIe 2.0 PCIe 3.0
Bracket Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height
Functionality
(Supported)
On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS, FCoE On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS, FCoE SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS, RoCE
Functionality
(Not Supported)
iWARP, RoCE iWARP, RoCE On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, FCoE, iWARP
OS Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, CentOS, UEFI, VMware ESX Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, EFI, UEFI Windows, FreeBSD, RHEL/CentOS, Vmware, WinOF-2

X710BM2-F2, X722-DA2 and MCX4121A-XC are all dual-port 10GbE SFP+ network adapters, more detailed specifications are summarized in the table below:

X710BM2-F2 X722-DA2 MCX4121A-XC
Port Configuration Dual SFP+ Ports Dual SFP+ Ports Dual SFP+ Ports
Data Rate Per Port 10GbE 10GbE 10GbE
Speed and Slot Width 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes
Controller Intel X710-BM2 Intel C628 ConnectX-4 Lx
Interface Type PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0
Bracket Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height
Functionality
(Supported)
On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS, RoCE
Functionality
(Not Supported)
FCoE, iWARP, RoCE FCoE, iWARP, RoCE On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, FCoE, iWARP
OS Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, CentOS, UEFI, VMware ESX Windows, Linux, FreeBSD Windows, FreeBSD, RHEL/CentOS, Vmware, WinOF-2

The Network Card Comparison of 25GbE NICs

XXV710AM2-F2, XXV710-DA2 and MCX4121A-ACAT are dual-port 25GbE SFP28 network cards, more detailed specifications are summarized in the table below:

XXV710AM2-F2 XXV710-DA2 MCX4121A-ACAT
Port Configuration Dual SFP28 Ports Dual SFP28 Ports Dual SFP28 Ports
Data Rate Per Port 25GbE 25GbE 25GbE
Speed and Slot Width 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes
Controller Intel XXV710 Intel XL710-BM2 ConnectX-4 Lx
Interface Type PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0
Bracket Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height
Functionality
(Supported)
On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS, RoCE
Functionality
(Not Supported)
FCoE, iWARP, RoCE FCoE, iWARP, RoCE On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, FCoE, iWARP
OS Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, CentOS, VMvare, ESX/ESXi Windows, Linux, FreeBSD Windows, FreeBSD, RHEL/CentOS, Vmware, WinOF-2

The Network Card Comparison of 40GbE NICs

FTXL710BM2-QF2, XL710-QDA2 and MCX4131A-BCAT. The first two are dual-port 40GbE QSFP+ network cards while the latter is single-port 40GbE QSFP+ cards, more detailed specifications are summarized in the table below:

FTXL710BM2-QF2 XL710-QDA2 MCX4131A-BCAT
Port Configuration Dual QSFP+ Ports Dual QSFP+ Ports Single QSFP+ Ports
Data Rate Per Port 40GbE 40GbE 40GbE
Speed and Slot Width 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes 8.0 GT/s, x8 Lanes
Controller Intel XL710-BM2 Intel XL710-BM2 ConnectX-4 Lx
Interface Type PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0
Bracket Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height Low Profile and Full Height
Functionality
(Supported)
On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS SR-IOV, Intelligent Offloads, iSCSI, NFS, RoCE
Functionality
(Not Supported)
FCoE, iWARP, RoCE FCoE, iWARP, RoCE On-chip QoS and Traffic Management, Flexible Port Partitioning, VMDq, FCoE, iWARP
OS Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, CentOS, UEFI, VMware, ESXi Windows, Linux, FreeBSD Windows , FreeBSD, RHEL/CentOS, Vmware, WinOF-2

Conclusion

After comparing with the two mainstream brands on the market, it's concluded that FS network adapters are basically the same as theirs in performance or even do a better job in supporting more operating systems. FS's network adapters all have PCIe interfaces with flexible space-saving design, providing reliable performance for servers. More importantly, they possess large-scale compatibility. On the one hand, the network cards are all tested to support all of the FS servers and multiple mainstream brands such as Dell, HPE, IBM, Intel, Supermicro servers, and so forth. On the other hand, FS has also provided a variety of modules that are compatible with our network adapters. For more details, please visit: Network Adapter Transceiver Modules Guide.