Ethernet Just Got a Big Performance Boost with Release of Soft-RoCE


Data Center innovation just keeps getting faster and RoCE just gave a big boost to Ethernet! Today we announced the release of opensource Soft RoCE. Soft RoCE is a software implementation of RDMA over Converged Ethernet that allows RoCE to run on any Ethernet network adapter, whether or not it offers hardware acceleration.

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This Soft-RoCE announcement comes fast on the heels of our big launch last week at One World Observatory of our next generation of 25 & 100Gb Ethernet adapters and switches. As we announced last week, both the Mellanox 25/50/100 Gigabit Ethernet Spectrum switch and the ConnectX-4 Lx 25/50 Gigabit Ethernet adapter both fully support RoCE in hardware. As such, they offer the highest performance and most cost-effective RDMA over Ethernet solutions in the market.



So why would we want to enable the market with a software implementation of RoCE that runs on other Ethernet adapters that don’t have hardware acceleration for RDMA? Well because we think once customers try RDMA and see the benefits they will decide to deploy RoCE it in their data centers – and we want to make this as easy as possible with Soft RoCE. That way customers can run a proof of concept evaluation using existing client machines that have any Ethernet NIC and connect to a RoCE enabled server or storage system. RoCE enabled systems are available from Dell, Data-On HP, IBM, Iron Systems, Lenovo, SuperMicro, Zadara and others.


But, with Soft RoCE will you get the full benefit of hardware acceleration such as implemented in our ConnectX family of RDMA enabled NICs? Well no, you won’t. You’ll only get a single-ended benefit from the system that has hardware acceleration in the server. On the client side, you’ll run the protocol stack in software so you won’t see the benefits of transport offload and user-space memory access. But at least it will let you get going quickly to test RDMA with RoCE without needing to get new client hardware.  We think that with even just half of an accelerated RoCE data center you’ll be convinced and decide to deploy a full end to end RDMA data center today.



But sometimes with technology past is prolog. Back in the early days of block based storage for Ethernet there were hardware accelerated implementations of iSCSI. These offered high performance block storage and because they ran over Ethernet they could be acquired at a fraction of the cost of expensive FibreChannel HBA’s.  At first the market for iSCSI just didn’t take off. It wasn’t until some major software giants decided to include an iSCSI software initiator in the operating system, that the technology finally took off.  Once iSCSI took off, customers realized they might as well get the full benefits of the technology with accelerators on both sides.



Fast forward a decade and now we are doing the same for RoCE. The Soft-RoCE release makes RoCE ubiquitous. You can use it on any Ethernet adapter. Making it easier for customers to use and see the benefits of RoCE will accelerate the adoption of the technology. Today many of the largest and most efficient data centers in the world use RoCE for both server-server and server to storage connections. These cloud and Web 2.0 giants recognize the value of RoCE delivers, enabling them to achieve more efficient use of their data center resources and achieve improved total cost of ownership.



It’s time for the next tier of intelligent data centers to start using RDMA and Soft-RoCE will help speed this transition. And best of all you can throw out that old Fibre Channel and iSCSI gear you have and start using iSER (iSCSI Extensions for RDMA) and SMB-Direct. The performance and efficiency benefits of these RDMA enabled Ethernet storage protocols will blow you away and make you want to accelerate all of your data center traffic with hardware accelerated RoCE solutions.


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When you are ready to deploy an end-to-end RDMA network, you can be confident that there is a rich ecosystem around RoCE with multiple vendors offering hardware accelerated solutions.  Today also saw the announcement of the RoCE Initiative. The RoCE initiative  draws together members of the IBTA dedicated to demonstrating the performance and efficiency advantages of the technology and the value of a competitive, multi-vendor ecosystem. In fact the RoCE Initiative just released a video that explains RDMA technology and how it can make your data center more efficient and save money:




So when it comes to RDMA over Ethernet there is only one choice. RoCE is the only industry standard RDMA solution available for Ethernet shipping in high volume, with millions of RoCE adapters deployed in hyperscale data centers. The architects of these advanced Cloud and Web 2.0 platforms realize that RoCE enables significantly better utilization of compute and storage resources, resulting in improved ROI on data center infrastructure.  Join with these pioneers who are using RDMA at massive scale and see what RoCE can do for your data center today.


About Kevin Deierling

Kevin Deierling has served as Mellanox's VP of marketing since March 2013. Previously he served as VP of technology at Genia Technologies, chief architect at Silver Spring Networks and ran marketing and business development at Spans Logic. Kevin has contributed to multiple technology standards and has over 25 patents in areas including wireless communications, error correction, security, video compression, and DNA sequencing. He is a contributing author of a text on BiCmos design. Kevin holds a BA in Solid State Physics from UC Berkeley. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @TechseerKD

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