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The TCP/IP offload engine (TOE for short) is a technology that is gaining popularity in high-speed Ethernet systems for the purpose of optimizing throughput. TOE components are incorporated into one of the printed circuit boards, such as the network interface card (NIC) or the host bus adapter (HBA).
In recent years, the communication speed in Ethernet systems has increased faster than computer processor speed. This produces an input/output (I/O) bottleneck. The processor, which is designed primarily for computing and not for I/O, cannot keep up with the data flowing through the network. As a result, the TCP/IP flow is processed at a rate slower than the speed of the network. TOE solves this problem by removing the burden (offloading) from the microprocessor and I/O subsystem.
The manner in which TOE is implemented depends on the needs of the customer. Considerations include flexibility, scalability, and performance. Network performance and scalability are optimized with application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) implementation. Network flexibility is optimized with processor-based implementation.