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Storage Networks

Massive storage transformation is underway… Is your network ready?

by Scott Shimomura on ‎12-02-2012 09:02 PM - last edited on ‎10-28-2013 05:26 PM by Anonymous (6,799 Views)

This is a great time to be part of the storage industry. For many years, innovation in enterprise storage had been moving at a seemingly glacial pace, marked by incremental increases in performance and capacity. All of this is changing as innovative storage technologies like SSD storage systems, 16 Gbps Fibre Channel arrays, and 10 GbE storage (iSCSI and NAS) are adopted by mainstream enterprise data centers.   These new storage devices drive massive performance improvements that are ideal for high density virtualization, transactional applications, and new workloads like big data and analytics. As data center managers deploy new server and storage technology, however, they will likely uncover limitations and potential I/O bottlenecks with legacy Fibre Channel and traditional Ethernet networks that carry storage traffic.


Simply put, the network matters for storage.  AJ Casamento, Global Solutions Architect at Brocade, recently recorded this video that explains why networks are so critical for storage.




Let’s take a closer look at these storage technologies and their impact on the network:


We have seen an increasing I/O performance gap between server processing side (e.g. more cores, faster memory, etc.) and storage over time. However, this gap is rapidly shrinking as solid-state drive (SSD) and flash-based storage solutions have entered the mainstream. SSD storage addresses both I/O and throughput bottlenecks enabling faster block and file-based storage performance for high density virtualized workloads and traditional mission critical applications. But that assumes that the network can keep pace. Demartek and Brocade recently published performance results showing database performance of over one million IOPS and over 7,200 MB/sec throughput using a combination of 16 Gbps Fibre Channel and SSD storage systems.




Another trend that is driving change is the transition to 16 Gbps Fibre Channel storage arrays. A big difference with the transition to 16 Gbps storage targets is the growing diversity of the storage industry. In addition to the traditional storage leaders like EMC, HDS, HP, and IBM, other storage vendors and SSD startups are entering the realm of high performance, low latency enterprise storage. For example, Dell and Brocade recently launched the industry’s first end-to-end 16 Gbps storage solution, the beginning of the final phase of the storage industry’s transition from 8 to 16 Gbps Fibre Channel technology. This is the first of many exciting 16 Gbps storage system announcements that I expect to see roll out from storage providers over the next several quarters.


The final trend is the growth in adoption of high performance 10GbE iSCSI and NAS based storage. Many Brocade customers are deploying Ethernet storage to address different application, cost, and performance metrics. The transition from 1GbE to 10GbE storage has major implications on the network. Moving to 10GbE storage implies that the storage is being used for applications and workloads that have higher performance and availability requirements. These are generally not that different from the requirements we would see on the Fibre Channel side. Leveraging our heritage in Fibre Channel SANs, Brocade VCS fabric technology brings many of the same reliability, availability, and efficiency values to Ethernet. Compared to traditional hierarchical networks, Brocade VCS Fabrics provide the best network infrastructure for Ethernet storage. Brook Reams, one of Brocade’s Global Solution Architects, wrote an excellent blog highlighting the value that Brocade VCS Fabrics provide to NAS storage environments.


Data center managers looking to deploy these new technologies to gain a competitive advantage also need to take a close look at their network infrastructure to determine whether it’s capable of delivering the reliability, performance, and operational simplicity these new technologies require.  If not, you’ve simply moved the bottleneck and won’t gain the benefits you seek.