Bigfoot Networks Killer NIC & Killer K1 Network Cards
Published: 21st March 2007 | Source: Killer NIC | Price: |
It's fair to say that there is quite a bit of technology behind the Killer NIC. For the most part Bigfoot Networks have tried to "dumb it down" to a level that the average computer enthusiast can relate to. However, if you take a look at Killer NIC's whitepaper you can get a better idea of how some of the technologies work. Let's take a brief look at some of them:
|GameFirst™: When LLR is enabled, the NPU classifies inbound and outbound packets based on their type. Gaming packets are determined by the UDP packet type, and then are processed in real-time by the NPU and ONLY the data within the UDP packets is placed directly to or taken directly from the game’s program space. These operations are given a higher priority than other network traffic.|
GameFirst does pretty much what it says on the tin. When enabled in the Killer NIC software, UDP traffic (used in games) is given priority over other protocol traffic resulting in lower pings, even when you are performing other tasks such as downloading files. It is worth mentioning that GameFirst can be disabled, resulting in the Killer NIC acting more like a traditional network card.
|MaxFPS™: MaxFPS™ will increase the Frames Per Second (FPS) in most gaming systems. It does this by reducing the CPU utilization due to networking, and speeding up the main game loops of the game (even when no network traffic is present). For gaming systems that have older graphics cards, the additional performance in CPU, cache, and main system memory will improve the efficiency of the older graphics card allowing it to run at more FPS, or at higher resolutions and settings. For gaming systems that have newer graphics cards, the FPS performance is usually limited by the performance of the main gaming loop or the CPU’s ability to get data to the card (memory bottlenecks). MaxFPS™ will improve the speed of the main gaming loop and reduce the CPU utilization and main system memory thrashing thus improving FPS, or allowing higher resolutions and settings.|
Most games today are mainly single-threaded designs, or are multi-threaded but are controlled by a main game loop. When a main game loop is single threaded (or networking is performed inside the main game loop) (figure 1), it will usually poll with nonblocking receives or call non-blocking select on a socket EVERY TIME THROUGH THE MAIN GAME LOOP, regardless of if there is actual network activity or not. This means that many levels of the network stack are traversed to determine if data is present or not, even when there is NO network activity.
To cut a long story short, the Killer NIC can help increase frame rates in games by offloading a lot of the work traditionally performed by the CPU and Memory to the processor on the network card. According to Killer NIC, The largest benefits can be seen when using the card with older PC's. This left me wondering if spending ~$200 on a network card would be the most cost effective way of gaining an FPS increase? Personally I think not.
|PingThrottle™: PingThrottle™ is a user-controlled setting that literally adds latency to any outbound network traffic, effectively increasing the effective ping a gamer has to a server. This is helpful when you are hosting a server on your LAN that other players are connecting to via the WAN (broadband/etc), and you would like to increase your ping to maintain a standard of fair play. Another use for this is to handicap your system in order to train and hone gaming skills. |
Some gamers have been known to ‘cheat’ by abnormally raising ping to say 400ms and causing a game to reduce accuracy. This cheat is not possible with PingThrottle™ for 2 reasons:
1.) The max latency that can be added is only about 20ms (give or take).
2.) The adjustment is done in the NPU itself rather than in software, so the added latency is real.
Obviously not all gamers will need this! But it’s there, just the same.
Should you feel that the Killer NIC gives you such an unfair advantage over your enemy, you can manually increase your ping by up to 20ms. This may sound quite pointless considering you've just shelled out ~$200 to get that advantage in the first place, but as the quote above rightfully states, this feature can also be used when you want to adjust your skills in preperation for high-ping gaming sessions.
|FNA™: FNA stands for Flexible Network Architecture. It is in effect, the infinite flexibility of Killer. For the average user, this means there is and will be FNapps (utilities/programs/game enhancers/etc.) that can be downloaded from www.KillerNIC.com and run on your KillerNIC.|
FNapps are designed to allow a user to run an application with a minimal or reduced impact on the main system’s CPU, Memory Subsystem, Caching, Hard-Disk, etc. These FNapps can be anything from simple packet monitoring utilities [like fire-walls, etc] to full-blown VOIP programs or file-sharing systems: even mini-game servers/chat servers. FNapps can be designed to make use of the dedicated USB port as well as the gigabit Ethernet port. In addition, FNapps integrate easily (and can communicate easily) with host apps (for gui interfaces/etc.)
As the Killer NIC has its own on-board CPU, RAM, USB and embedded Linux OS, there is no reason why the card can't be used for more than just networking. Bigfoot Networks have already created Bittorrent and Firewall applications for use with FNA which can be found here, and are also offering generous rewards to anyone willing to develop additional applications for this architecture.