Actually, unless you just WANT Intel cards, you don't have to abandon the two onboard Broadcom NICs. If you remove the TOE License Key from the motherboard, those NICs perform very well.
It was pretty funny - when I asked our server folks to "remove the TOE License Key" from our PE1950's, they came back and said "is this what was causing all your problems?"
It's a little (and I mean little) plastic beige button, about as big as a dime, with (I think) an RJ11 plug on the bottom (looks exactly like a plug on the end of a telephone line). It says "TOExx" on it (mine says "TOE2"). It's near the middle of the motherboard. Here's a link to a thread on the Dell forums with a picture of where the little monster is attached:
Picture is about halfway down.
From what I've read, with these specific NIC's it's a three part process:
- Disable SNP (which includes TOE) in Windows. Here's a link: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/948496.
- Disable RSS and all offloading options in the NIC driver (can be done from Device Manager or from Network Connections. Click "Configure", then click "Advanced", and turn off RSS and all offload functions.
- Power down, unplug the hardware key, power up.
- You're done.
While YMMV, this tamed our rebellious Broadcom NIC's into models of networking propriety.
One other note: Don't believe the Broadcom propaganda (better known as the BACS documentation and help files). Broadcom claims that you can use their network driver admin software (currently BACS3) to disable TOE. That may work for some, but not for me and others.
Supposedly, TOE is automatically disabled whenever a firewall is running (including ISA and the Microsoft firewall). Not true with this particular chipset. However, the BACS software detects that Windows has attempted to stop using TOE, so all the functions to actually disable it with BACS are greyed out.
Maybe, if I had attempted to use BACS3 to turn off TOE prior to installing ISA (or running the Microsoft hotfix to disable TOE), BACS would allow me to disable it in the hardware. Too late for me to try, but I'll give it a go on the next batch of serves that come in. (If someone else tries it and it works, let me know).
Also, the ONLY sure-fire way to KNOW if TOE is turned off in the hardware is to install and use Dell OpenManage Server Administrator. On my system, you navigate to System\Main System Chassis\Network, click on one of the Broadcom NICs, and near the bottom will be two entries:
- TOE Capable - Available (it's always available, since it's built in to the chipset).
- TOE Enabled - NO (should be disabled because you've removed the license key).
In BACS, Under Licenses in the Configuration tab, it will also show zero connections for TOE (no available TOE licenses for this server).
Whew, that's a mouthful. But for those that want to use the Broadcom NICs and not suffer the bipolar swings of TOE, this is the best way I've found to disable it - and confirm that it's been disabled.
As always, if I'm wrong, or if there'a s better way, please feel free to let me know so everyone has the best, most correct information on how to deal with this issue.
What a great thread! Thanks for the great sleuthing and troubleshooting.
Indeed! The Broadcom NICs are true evil and when I order new servers, I just disable the onboard NICs and use Intel NICs in them.