Converged Network Adapters (CNA)- A Way to Smarter Virtualization

Modern data centers rely heavily on virtualization technology to improve productivity. As a result of the immense pressure on its performance, the technology itself has stepped up and evolved drastically since its inception. Virtualization is a concept wherein a virtual version of a hardware, software, operating system or storage space is created in order to centralize administrative tasks and enhance scalability and performance of the component that has been subjected to virtualization.

Virtualization ensures optimal resource utilization. With the aid of this technology, one can run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single platform/CPU. It’s a perfect example of enhanced multitasking or hierarchical multitasking. In multitasking, you are allowed to run multiple applications on a single operating system, whereas in virtualization, you are simultaneously running several operating systems on a single CPU; on each operating system, you can simultaneously run several applications. This reduces the overhead cost of the data center as you are making full use of the available CPUs, thus bringing down the need for more.

The latest innovation in the virtualization technology is the Converged Network Adapter. It is a server card that is meant to serve the purpose of a Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapter and Ethernet Network Interface Card in one card. It connects the storage network and the computer network. For companies struggling with complex physical and virtual networking, CNA is a boon to have. Once the CNA is connected and routed properly, it can pass both TCP/IP networking and storage traffic simultaneously.

The main advantage of CNA is the reduction in the number of adapters required to connect the servers to the ports. This in turn reduces the amount of cables, switch ports, PCI express slots and other network components. It ensures a clutter free and relatively less expensive server room.

CNA mostly supports 10 GB enhanced Ethernet. This is adequate for network and storage traffic. But times are changing and in order to keep up with the data demand and enhanced speed, changes are being made to accommodate 40 GBEE and even 100 GBEE.

CNA supports both copper and fiber transceivers. It also supports single mode and multimode fibres and copper twin and copper twisted cables. These adapters are extensively used data center vendors. They can provide more services with less. They can also be used as a standalone network adapters or standalone fibre channel host bus adapters as well. Additional features can be enabled as and when required.

A number of virtual platforms are now making room for CNA’s superior features. They now support data center bridging and data transfer offload capabilities with is quite sub-standard in the previous versions. This allows you to manage  all the traffic from your own desktop. They enhance the capability of virtualization further, thus making its usage quite beneficial.

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