May 12, 2005

A start-up founded by a former Motorola Semiconductor engineer is shipping a Linux-compatibile dual Gigabit Ethernet network interface card (NIC) with TCP/IP offload engine (TOE). LeWiz claims its Magic2020 HBA offers "best in breed" bi-directional TCP/IP performance. It targets servers, storage, and networked appliances.

The Magic2020 HBA is a
PCI card with dual Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and LeWiz's LE2020 TOE chip. LeWiz says the card can reduce CPU load on heavily used network devices by offloading TCP/IP processing to the TOE chip, rather than the CPU.

According to LeWiz founder Chinh Le, the advent of Gigabit Ethernet has placed increased strain on CPUs, because "a standard rule of thumb [is] that a CPU of 1KHz is required to process TCP overhead associated with transfering data
transferring 1Kbit/sec. Since every Ethernet port is bi-directional, that means that each port [could consume] 1Gbps in and 1Gbps out. So, the host processor handling two ports has to run at 4GHz just to process the TCP/IP protocol."

LeWiz claims that the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports on its Magic2020 HBA enable the card to support throughputs up to 4Gbps (bi-directional), along with *256,000 user sessions. In order to demonstrate the card's prowess, the company hired independent benchmark lab Synchromesh Computing to test it against several other network interface cards, including several that are also equipped with TOEs. Tested cards include:

  • Intel Pro/1000 Network Adapter
  • Broadcom Gigabit Base T
  • Alacritech Gigabit Accelerator TNIC
  • Adaptec TOE NAC 7711C

According to Synchromesh CEO Alan Weiss, the benchmarks were run using the well-known "ttcp" benchmark, and with the "chariot" benchmark. Testing was done on a PC running Red Hat 9, except in the case of Alacritech, where Windows 2003 was used because supported Linux drivers were unavailable.

TTCP benchmark results

According to LeWiz, the tests show that the Magic2020 HBA offered two- to three-times better overall system performance efficiency with data transfers between 4KB and 512KB, and three times *better with TCP/IP load between 1 and 512 bidirectional connections

Weiss said, "At first, Synchromesh Computing was a bit skeptical about the very concept of using a separate processor to reduce the workload of the main CPU(s). We found that indeed this works as designed. First, we proved the value proposition of TCP/IP offload engines in general, and then we found that the LeWiz solution is superior. This young company really has the goods."


The Magic 2020 HBA is available now, priced at $995, with volume pricing available. The Linux drivers
are currently distributed with the card, but will soon be released under the GPL, according to LeWiz.

* LeWiz's Corrections