The Network Matters for NVMe, Wait What?

By Scott Shimomura posted 12-07-2015 06:00 AM


While all-flash and hybrid arrays are finally becoming mainstream in the data center, there is a new wave of innovation on the horizon that will enable even better application performance. Server-side storage isn’t new, however Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is emerging as a new storage platform that will drive massive performance gains.




Applications will see better random and sequential performance by reducing latency and enabling much more parallelism through an optimized PCI Express (PCIe) interface purpose-built for solid state storage.


So why does networking matter for host-based storage? On the surface, it would seem counterintuitive. However, what do you do when you want to share storage or want high availability functionality such as failover? Simple, you connect the storage over a fabric. The NVM Express over Fabrics initiative was started to begin to address these needs. While there are Ethernet with RDMA, Infiniband-based and Intel Omni-Path fabrics, they leverage networking technologies that are not widely deployed for enterprise storage. This means potential NVMe customers would have to deploy additional networks to support their storage.


But what about the original storage fabric?


Of course I am talking about Fibre Channel, which we helped pioneer with our first fabric switches in 1997. Clearly Fibre Channel is a proven and widely-adopted technology that delivers performance, reliability, and low latency. It’s also the de facto standard for connecting all-flash arrays over a fabric. It’s an ideal infrastructure to connect NVMe, enabling customers to leverage their existing storage fabric investments.


In 2014, the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) announced a new working group within the INCITS T11 committee (responsible for Fibre Channel standards) to align NVMe with Fibre Channel as part of the NVM Express over Fabrics initiative. This is an important evolution as it keeps Fibre Channel at the forefront of storage innovation.


QLogic and Brocade are demonstrating the industry’s first NVMe over Fabrics solution using Fibre Channel as the Fabric. The demonstration is based on the draft specification of NVMe over Fabrics under definition by the NVM Express, Inc., organization and the draft FC-NVMe standard under definition by T11. The solution is displayed in the Brocade booth #546 at the Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure & Operations Management Conference in Las Vegas.


Please come by to see the demo or have a conversation about this cool new technology!


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