by Adam Armstrong

Atto FastFrame NT12 Review

The Atto FastFrame NT12 is a dual port 10GBASE-T network adapter built on industry standard Intel silicon that offers faster speeds than 8Gbs Fibre Channel while being wire structured familiar for networking professionals. The NT12 provides improved iSCSI service with Lossless Ethernet (CEE) and Data Center Bridging (DCB) support. The Atto FastFrame NT12 uses the Intel (X540 chipset) silicon to give it broad support for Windows and Linux servers The NT12 is especially geared for high performance I/O connectivity for Mac OS X environments, offering Xtend SAN (an iSCSI initiator for OSX). This makes the NT12 great for creative ventures that use exclusively Macs for their business, such as a graphic design firm, a recording studio, or video editing. Not only is the NT12 great for Macs, it is also backward compatible to Gig-E allowing for stage-upgrades. Additionally, the NT12 uses about 30% less power than competing NICs, which allows for lower energy and maintenance costs. 

iSCSI support with Lossless Ethernet is usually offered at a hefty pricepoint by companies; however, ATTO provides this service to its customers at no cost. This is a very welcomed, unique feature. In addition, the NT12 features dual and single port configurations, low profile and standard height brackets, driver support for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, and promises minimized interruptions due to low latency. The Atto 10GbE cards, including the NT12, also offer backwards compatibility support for all ports cabling making them a very versatile solution.

The Atto FastFrame NT12 has a 3-year limited warranty and a street price of $625.00.

Atto FastFrame NT12 Specifications:

  • Intel X540 10GBASE-T Ethernet Controller
  • Simultaneously supports multiple networking and storage protocols: TCP/IP, iSCSI
  • Supports Data Center Bridging; PFC, ETS, and DCBX protocol
  • Up to 10Gb/s throughput per port
  • High-performance PCIe 2.0 bus x8
  • Ethernet features
    • Data rate per port: 10Gb/s, 1Gb/s, 100Mb/s
    • Jumbo frame support up to 9,000 bytes
    • Tx/Rx IP, TCP & UDP checksum offloading (IPv4, IPv6) capabilities, TCP, UDP, IP
    • Large send offloads (LSO)
  • Host bus specifications
    • mechanical x8 and electrical x8 PCI Express 2.0 interconnect
    • Backward compatible with PCI Express 1.1
    • Supports PCI Express Base Spec 2.0
    • Supports PCI Express CEM Spec 2.0
  • Environmental:
    • Length: 5.6 inches
    • Height: 2.71 inches
    • Operating temperature: 0 to 55 °C (32 to 131 °F)
    • Storage temperature: -40 to 70 °C (-40 to 158 °F) 
    • Relative humidity: 10 to 90% non-condensing
    • 13.6W (typical), 16.0W (max)
    • 200 lf/m (minimum) airflow recommended
    • RoHS compliant
  • External connectivity
    • Full height connection bracket; low-profile bracket
    • External LEDs for link speed and activity for each port
    • Compatible with CAT-7, CAT-6a, and CAT-6 Ethernet cables for 10GBASE-T connections and CAT-5e for 1000BASE-T and 100BASE-TX connections
  • Software:
    • Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, 10.8
    • Microsoft Windows Vista, 7, 8
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2, 2012
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.x, 6.x
    • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, 11, 11 SP1
    • openSUSETM 11.3, 11.4
    • CentOS 6
  • 3-year limited warranty

Design And Build

The Atto FastFrame NT12 is low profile, dual Ethernet configuration, plug in network interface card. Atto's family of FastFrame NICs are also offered in quad and single port configurations.

Installing the NT12 is quick and easy. Simply navigate to the downloads section of the ATTO company website and select the appropriate driver depending on your OS. Then insert the card into the PCIe slot and it's ready to go. We are currently using the NT12 in the Nestor TurboBox external PCIe enclosure.

As for the card itself, at the front and center lays the Intel X540 10GBASE-T Ethernet Controller, which is covered by a large heat sink. The face of the card houses the two ports.

Usability

The NT12 is capable of boasting upwards of 10Gb/s throughput per port in a high-performance PCIe 2.0 bus x8 slot and is specifically designed to offer stable near-line-speed data rates with files of all sizes, allowing for predictable performance and low CPU usage.

As we mentioned above, we tested the ATTO card in our Netstor TurboBox, which was immediately recognized once we installed the appropriate drivers. With the collaboration of these two devices, we were able to easily connect to high-performance NAS/SAN arrays (outside the office) with good transfer rates over Thunderbolt. Desktop users with available PCIe slots can also install the NT12 card to simply access 10Gb network storage much faster than legacy 1Gb connections.

Conclusion

The Atto FastFrame NT12 is a dual port 10GBASE-T network adapter that has a broad support for Windows and Linux, but is especially aimed at Apple OSX users who are typically neglected when it comes to driver support for networking gear. The card itself is based on proven Intel silicon as well, so when combined with the Atto driver support the NT12 allows unique use case flexibility, as we see using it inside the Netstor enclosure. If there's anything to complain about it's that the card doesn't support the addition of fans. While in most use cases isn't a problem, those using the card inside workstations or enclosures with limited airflow need to consider thermal dissipation when installing.

Pros

  • Mac driver support
  • Proven chipset
  • Single, dual, quad port options

Cons

  • No fan option limits some workstation deployments

The Bottom Line

The Atto FastFrame NT12 is a 10GBASE-T that appeals more towards Mac users but also supports both Windows and Linux operating systems, all the while offering high performance connectivity without the high cost or compatibility issues of other NICs.

Atto FF-NT12 Product Page

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