Gen 6 Performance Unleashes The All-flash Data Center

By Barbara Porter posted 08-24-2016 12:59 PM


The Gen 6 Fibre Channel eco-system is rapidly developing with the latest news coming from Brocade on its rollout of the new X6 Director family with Gen 6 technology. The X6 Director family will power the heart of the data center with 364 ports that can scale up with port blades, delivering a maximum port speed of up to 32 Gbps. The X6 Directors joins a number of already released Gen 6 Fibre Channel products including the Brocade 620 switch, LPe31000/32000-series Host Bus Adapters (HBAs) from Emulex, Dell and Lenovo, with more OEMs expected to release their Gen 6 products soon. In just over four months, the Gen 6 Fibre Channel eco-system is nearly complete, making it one of the most rapid Fibre Channel transitions ever seen.


What’s driving such a rapid roll-out? Today’s applications can easily consume all of the performance that they get from Flash. To keep up, leading enterprise customers are deploying proven data center- class Gen 6 Fibre Channel networks to support these new requirements in performance with respect to latency, IOPs and bandwidth. The next big technology shift will be NVM Express that delivers an even faster storage solution for all-Flash arrays. These solutions need a network that can keep pace with their throughput and IOPS demands to ensure the network does not become the bottleneck. At the same time, they need to be guaranteed extreme reliability, interoperability and security. For these reasons Fibre Channel is the primary connectivity choice for all-Flash array vendors. According to Brocade, close to 80 pecent of Flash arrays are connected to Fibre Channel networks.


Demartek labs took a look at performance bottlenecks that occur when using all-Flash arrays by testing an Oracle database data warehousing environment, connected to an all-Flash storage array using a Brocade Gen 6 switch and compared three generations of Fibre Channel HBAs. Testing showed that the 8 Gbps and 16 Gbps HBAs significantly choked application performance. The Emulex Gen 6 HBAs with the Gen 6 Brocade switch provided the performance needed to dramatically improve data warehousing application performance. The Emulex Gen 6 HBA reduced Oracle 12c data warehouse workload query time by almost half compared to Gen 5 (16 Gbps) and reduced it to a quarter compared to 8 Gbps connected servers ( chart 1).Gen 6 Fibre Channel also reduced latency by half for both target and initiator when compared to the Gen5 HBA (chart 2).


Chart 1

Completion Time of Decision Support Queries

Chart 2

Average I/O Response Time by Blocksize

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By deploying Gen 6 Fibre Channel, data centers can get the increased performance they need for today and tomorrow. Gen 6 Fibre Channel doubles the throughput from 16 Gbps to 32 Gbps, but also provides an option to quadruple the performance to 128 Gbps. The newest innovation includes parallel Fibre Channel which stripes four simultaneous lanes of 32 Gbps to create a single link with speeds up to 128 Gbps. For those data centers deploying all-Flash arrays, Gen 6 will help alleviate the bottlenecks by providing the throughput needed for maximum performance.


NVMe is a relatively new protocol for solid-state storage devices built with non-volatile memory technologies. NVMe provides substantially lower latency for storage I/O operations and significantly higher IOPS per device. NVMe will scale up the number of devices it can address by adopting “NVMe over Fabrics” technology. Fibre Channel is one of the fabric technologies that will be supported by NVMe over Fabrics, and the first NVMe over Fabrics solution that has completed an industry-wide interoperability plugfest at UNH-IOC.


Data centers can seamlessly integrate Brocade and Emulex Gen 6 Fibre Channel networks with next-generation NVMe Flash storage over Fabrics without a disruptive rip and replace. The efficiency of FC-NVMe, combined with the high performance and low latency of Gen 6 Fibre Channel, allows customers to benefit from accelerated IOPS to deliver the performance, application response time, and scalability needed in next-generation data centers.


Forward Error Correction (FEC) is another new feature available with Gen 6 technology that improves the reliability of Fibre Channel links through the recovery from bit errors that occur in high speed networks. FEC helps minimize or avoid data stream errors that can lead to application performance degradation or outages.


Gen 6 supports complete and total backward compatibility to 16 Gbps and 8 Gbps networks. Gen 6 Fibre Channel automatically configures to the fastest supported speed between any two network points and requires zero user intervention. This backward compatibility feature ensures total investment protection in Fibre Channel networks.


As more and more data center administrators look at adding Flash storage and NVMe into their environments, they are going to want to make sure that the technology they deploy will provide not only the performance, but also the scalability and the flexibility to meet mission-critical application requirements. As customers look at the infrastructure choices available, few can truly meet these needs. Fibre Channel is a strong fit for these scenarios and the reason why the newest Gen 6 technology is ramping so quickly.


This blog post was originially published by Avago Technologies and is cross posted here for your enjoyment. You can find the orginial blog post here.