[Beowulf] gamers: evil or just useless? ;)

Andrew Piskorski atp at piskorski.com
Thu Aug 10 12:27:14 PDT 2006

On Tue, Aug 08, 2006 at 06:41:14PM -0400, Mark Hahn wrote:

> first GPUs, now NICs?  http://www.bigfootnetworks.com/ appears to be 
> an actual linux-based coprocessor marketed as an offload NIC for gamers.
> weird, but true!  from their whitepaper, I can't tell whether their 
> performance numbers are sane (2500 UDP "calls" per second sounds very
> underwhelming...)  will game vendors actually write code specific 

Their white paper's little bar graph claims that its "UDP throughput
in megabytes" is "20.15", while that of an Intel Pro 1000 card is only
"11.77".  They make no attempt to explain the origin of that delta.

Assuming those numbers are in fact correctly measuring something
relevant, perhaps their card just has its network settings tuned
correctly for that test, while the Pro/1000 does not?  Or the OS
networking stack on the desktop in question is lousy, which degrades
the Pro/1000 but not their card, as their card is doing OS-bypass?

(They specify the motherboard, etc. of their test system, but don't
even mention what OS it was running.  MS Windows presumably, but they
say nothing about what version.)

I can imagine three sorts of scenarios for what this card is really

1. It might effectively be just a plug in key to change your Windows
network settings.  In which case, well, $280 seems a little steep.

2. It might basically be a way to sell bundled OS-bypass networking
software for MS Windows.  I suppose this might actually be cost
effective for some people.

3. It might actually be beter / more interesting / more useful than
any of those "Let's take advantage of naive gamers!" scenarios above.

I wonder which is closest to the truth.  #3 of course would be the
most interesting, but I don't think they've provided enough data to
even distinguish between cases 1, 2, and 3, much less understand #3.

Andrew Piskorski <atp at piskorski.com>

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