Brocade Fibre Channel Networking Community

How to Achieve Future-proof Performance in a All-Flash Data Center

By AJ Casamento posted 08-05-2016 02:37 PM


For decades, high performance and reliability have been the fundamental cornerstone for Fibre Channel storage networks. They still are. But data centers have become a lot more complicated since SANs first appeared. With our world undergoing a massive digital transformation and with more devices than ever to manage, IT environments are struggling to keep up.


We used to worry about rapidly expanding data volumes and staying ahead of regulations.  Now we worry about increasing data volumes, staying compliant, driving aggressive rollout of ‘critical’ new applications and services, access speeds, security, more virtualized workflows, offsite data and cloud, the need to support multiple storage protocols and memory types to support increasingly diverse application requirements … sound familiar?


You may be finding more questions as you face demand for more answers.  What about adopting hyperscale? Can we leverage a third party cloud service and cut costs while shipping off portions of our infrastructure? Can we scale up and out? What about security?  How can we adopt and manage more flash storage? And in the midst of all this - how does enterprise IT support the impact of today’s big trends – big data, social, mobility, cloud and Internet-of-Things? 


How do we ensure the network can support us now, and be ready to support us in the future, when we are not absolutely certain what that future looks like? 


These are tough questions, but there are some guideposts to follow.  One trend is already clear: Flash storage is a revolution and is changing the storage environment.  Rotating media is being replaced by ultra-fast flash devices.  And there are newer technologies on the horizon that promise even faster, lower latency flash storage in the coming years.  Combine this trend with growth in multi-core compute engines, and it may seem that everything is operating faster.


But is it?  Are you certain that your storage network will keep up with advances in compute and flash?  Will the network become the new bottleneck for your applications?  Will you get the full ROI from your flash investments?  The answer for many is … it depends.


All of these changes to how we store, retrieve, archive and move data around are leading some to question the paradigms of today.  For example, some believe that moving from dedicated storage networks to a shared network architecture is best for critical storage traffic. On the contrary!  Today’s environmental changes mean having a dedicated network for storage is more critical than ever; to ensure security, speed and services availability, and to avoid system failures and bandwidth bottlenecks that strangle productivity.  Industry experts from Gartner, IDC and Forrester all agree – dedicated networks for critical application data is a best practice for today’s digital economy.


But the storage network must address and support the demands of today, and be ready and able to adapt-with-ease (and at little to no additional cost) for an increasingly unpredictable future with untold performance and availability demands.  To achieve the ability to scale with future growth needs, you need to consider doing two things:

  1. Update to a modern network infrastructure for flash storage. Data center modernization starts with Gen 6 Fibre Channel. Brocade Gen 6 products deliver the highest level of performance and reliability, which are flash-certified with all major vendors. Brocade Gen 6 Fibre Channel addresses today’s demands by going beyond performance to offer a variety of unique innovations delivered through the Gen 6 Fibre Channel Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), in combination with Brocade Fabric OS® (Brocade FOS) and Brocade Network Advisor. Together, these new capabilities enhance operational stability and increase business agility, providing the mission-critical foundation required to support “always on” business operations and to seamlessly integrate next-generation storage. When it comes to delivering the full benefit of flash, Fibre Channel is the optimal solution for today’s critical storage networks.
  2. Prepare for a future of Ultra-performance. Flash storage is forecasted to get even faster. The flash-specific protocol, NVMe (non-volatile memory express) has been developed to provide a significant latency reduction in data transfers from flash devices.  And this technology, called NVMe over Fabrics, has been demonstrated on a Brocade storage fabric – the perfect solution for high performance, large storage environments.  The new Brocade Gen 6 networking platforms are engineered today to support NVMe without changing the hardware. That means no rip and replace to integrate new technology when you are ready to deploy.
  3. Investment Protection. The Brocade X6 family offers backward-compatibility support for connectivity to 4, 8, and 16 Gbps Fibre Channel and FICON products, allowing seamless connectivity between the older generation of devices and storage networking equipment. This enables an older storage infrastructure to continue to serve an organization’s needs. An organization could also strategically plan to introduce Brocade X6 Directors into their existing fabrics when new devices are added to their fabrics, whether due to new requirements or just ongoing growth.

While some cite the ‘demise’ of Fibre Channel, it simply remains the best storage networking solution for the high performance flash systems of today, and in the future.


flash forward gen 6


Brocade recently announced our Gen 6 solutions; learn more about that here: Flash Forward with Gen 6


And, as the leading provider and expert in storage networking solutions worldwide for over 20 years, supporting the mission-critical systems and business-critical applications of most of the FTSE 5000, we have a range of other storage solutions for your organization. Learn more here: Storage Fabrics Technology


In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts, so please add your comment below and join the conversation!