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Merlink managed link aggregation  (617)
Merlink is an implementation of managed link aggregation including the link aggregation control (LACP) and marker protocols based on the IEEE 802.3ad standard. It is a member of the Switchcraft family of layer 2 protocol products offered by TeamF1. Merlink is ideally suited for adding fault tolerant or high availability (HA) features to embedded systems using multiple network ports. In addition Merlink can improve network performance by offering load balancing across all links without overwhelming any single link.

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Merlink is a robust, lean, high performance implementation of the managed link aggregation standard for networked embedded devices that require improved reliability or throughput using multiple network interfaces (NICs). It enables multiple links to be aggregated together to form a link aggregation group that a MAC client can treat as a single link. This aggregated link acts as a higher-speed link providing increased bandwidth, fault tolerance, and HA for improving system reliability. In the event of a link failure, Merlink redistributes traffic from the failed link(s) to the other links in the group. Merlink also balances the load across different active links in an aggregate group, with support for customizable load-balancing algorithms which can handle links of varying bandwidth. Merlink includes built-in support for LACP and the Marker protocol, and scales up from basic manual trunking to advanced automated aggregate management. With validated protocol compliance and interoperability with popular switch implementations, Merlink is the optimal solution for high bandwidth and fault-tolerant applications.

Merlink can combine existing parallel physical layer links into a single logical link which enables linearly scalable bandwidth per network connection while simultaneously providing high availability and reliability through multiple link redundancy. The Merlink framework contains APIs to manually or automatically add and remove existing links from aggregates, and has the capability to make an aggregate appear as a virtual END driver to the higher network layers providing for maximum application portability. On the lower end, the framework builds upon standard END or Ethernet drivers requiring no special OS or networking source code and supports links of different physical types and bandwidths transparently.

Besides the immediate cost and scalability benefits of utilizing multiple lower-bandwidth links instead of one higher bandwidth link, aggregates also enable increased system resiliency and redundancy. Failure of a single component link does not disrupt communications between connected devices, and the loss of a link within an aggregate only reduces available capacity while maintaining the connection and data flow.

To improve the traffic distribution characteristics for an aggregate, Merlink provides load balancing across links so that traffic is distributed across all links without overwhelming any single link. TeamF1 includes its own plug-in mechanism to solve the problems associated with a typical but unrealistic assumption of uniform distribution of traffic by introducing a custom load-sharing algorithm between various links, which defaults to a round-robin scheme if no such algorithm is present.

Merlink, like other members of the Switchcraft family, is designed for commercial real-time and embedded operating systems. TeamF1 offers optimized versions for VxWorks as a drop-in component with support for standard END (Enhanced Network Driver) devices and the ability to have the aggregation framework appear as an END device. Merlink has also been optimized for Linux kernels 2.4 and 2.6. It supports a variety of switch fabric chipsets and provides a standard reference implementation to include a custom switch chip. It enables highly sophisticated management of link aggregation groups in networked embedded systems with the fewest changes to the application and driver code.

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Wind River, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), is a world leader in embedded and mobile software. Wind River has been pioneering computing inside embedded devices since 1981 and its technology is found in more than 500 million products