Network update

This isn’t really an upgrade from last time but rather a downgrade in term of chipset. I went from Intel chips to… something else.

So first off is that card above, an HP NC550SFP. It uses Emulex OCe10102 series chipset. I think it’s the same generation as previous Intel 82599 but I believe the Intel one is generally regarded as one of the best for general networking.

At any rate, the card requires loading additional driver in FreeBSD (if_oce) whereas with Intel it’s already built-in.

I initially tried the card on my desktop but it just didn’t work reliably. It caused my system to hang during boot. I’ve tried multiple configurations and none worked. Thankfully it worked just fine on the server. Figuring that out took me a few hours.

I think the card performed more or less the same as Intel? I’m not sure about the heat it generated but that’s a different story.

With the card being unusable on desktop, I had to look for another (cheap) card. Thankfully the same seller I bought the card above put up another card for sale:

An HP NC522SFP, running a Netxen NX3031 chipset (also known Qlogic 3100 series, I think). I’m not sure if this one is older or newer (the 550 above is 2012) but I’m pretty sure it’s almost equally old. If anything, I’d say this one is older because HP doesn’t even provide driver for Windows 2012 or later while they do for the other card. Kind of.

The seller didn’t actually say if the card working but it does work fine. No startup problem like the other card either. The performance seems fine as well.

The only problem with this card is there’s no driver for FreeBSD. And considering the age, I doubt there will be one ever. I don’t see any PR on it on FreeBSD’s Phabricator either.

Considering the other card doesn’t quite work on desktop, I guess both cards are now stuck on their respective motherboard. I hope I won’t need to use the desktop board for server.

This concludes network update for the foreseeable future (until either card breaks). In the end, it costed me two Mellanox single ports (5k each), two X520 dual ports + a pair of optical transceiver (4k each), two random HP cards (2.4k each), and 6k total for three sets of cable (two coppers, one fiber) for a total of almost 29k. I wondered if it ended up more expensive than going 10Gbase-T but apparently it’s not. Especially with dual ports for Hyper-V.

Interestingly the pair of cards that work ended up being the cheapest.

Also interesting those cards have been around for over 6 years and 10GbE stayed in server realm until very recently trickled down to consumer market. Even then the consumer market doesn’t seem to go straight to 10GbE but making stop on 2.5 and 5GbE first for some (probably cabling) reason.

With all slots being used, it looks like I won’t be adding any more cards to this server anytime soon. It’s pretty annoying with one card being used for graphics card. Now I think about it I can probably take it off but it’s easier to troubleshoot if I leave it there.

The cards are:

  • HP NC550SFP (Netxen NX3031)
  • Zotac GF710 x1
  • Fujitsu D2607-A11 (LSI SAS2008)
  • Realtek RTL8111

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