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    Ethernet Networked Storage – FAQ

    December 8th, 2016

    At our SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum (ESF) webcast “Re-Introduction to Ethernet Networked Storage,” we provided a solid foundation on Ethernet networked storage, the move to higher speeds, challenges, use cases and benefits. Here are answers to the questions we received during the live event.

    Q. Within the iWARP protocol there is a layer called MPA (Marker PDU Aligned Framing for TCP) inserted for storage applications. What is the point of this protocol?

    A. MPA is an adaptation layer between the iWARP Direct Data Placement Protocol and TCP/IP. It provides framing and CRC protection for Protocol Data Units.  MPA enables packing of multiple small RDMA messages into a single Ethernet frame.  It also enables an iWARP NIC to place frames received out-of-order (instead of dropping them), which can be beneficial on best-effort networks. More detail can be found in IETF RFC 5044 and IETF RFC 5041.

    Q. What is the API for RDMA network IPC?

    The general API for RDMA is called verbs. The OpenFabrics Verbs Working Group oversees the development of verbs definition and functionality in the OpenFabrics Software (OFS) code. You can find the training content from OpenFabrics Alliance here. General information about RDMA for Ethernet (RoCE) is available at the InfiniBand Trade Association website. Information about Internet Wide Area RDMA Protocol (iWARP) can be found at IETF: RFC 5040, RFC 5041, RFC 5042, RFC 5043, RFC 5044.

    Q. RDMA requires TCP/IP (iWARP), InfiniBand, or RoCE to operate on with respect to NVMe over Fabrics. Therefore, what are the advantages of disadvantages of iWARP vs. RoCE?

    A. Both RoCE and iWARP support RDMA over Ethernet. iWARP uses TCP/IP while RoCE uses UDP/IP. Debating which one is better is beyond the scope of this webcast, but you can learn more by watching the SNIA ESF webcast, “How Ethernet RDMA Protocols iWARP and RoCE Support NVMe over Fabrics.”

    Q. 100Gb Ethernet Optical Data Center solution?

    A. 100Gb Ethernet optical interconnect products were first available around 2011 or 2012 in a 10x10Gb/s design (100GBASE-CR10 for copper, 100GBASE-SR10 for optical) which required thick cables and a CXP and a CFP MSA housing. These were generally used only for switch-to-switch links. Starting in late 2015, the more compact 4x25Gb/s design (using the QSFP28 form factor) became available in copper (DAC), optical cabling (AOC), and transceivers (100GBASE-SR4, 100GBASE-LR4, 100GBASE-PSM4, etc.). The optical transceivers allow 100GbE connectivity up to 100m, or 2km and 10km distances, depending on the type of transceiver and fiber used.

    Q. Where is FCoE being used today?

    A. FCoE is primarily used in blade server deployments where there could be contention for PCI slots and only one built-in NIC. These NICs typically support FCoE at 10Gb/s speeds, passing both FC and Ethernet traffic via connect to a Top-of-Rack FCoE switch which parses traffic to the respective fabrics (FC and Ethernet). However, it has not gained much acceptance outside of the blade server use case.

    Q. Why did iSCSI start out mostly in lower-cost SAN markets?

    A. When it first debuted, iSCSI packets were processed by software initiators which consumed CPU cycles and showed higher latency than Fibre Channel. Achieving high performance with iSCSI required expensive NICs with iSCSI hardware acceleration, and iSCSI networks were typically limited to 100Mb/s or 1Gb/s while Fibre Channel was running at 4Gb/s. Fibre Channel is also a lossless protocol, while TCP/IP is lossey, which caused concerns for storage administrators. Now however, iSCSI can run on 25, 40, 50 or 100Gb/s Ethernet with various types of TCP/IP acceleration or RDMA offloads available on the NICs.

    Q. What are some of the differences between iSCSI and FCoE?

    A. iSCSI runs SCSI protocol commands over TCP/IP (except iSER which is iSCSI over RDMA) while FCoE runs Fibre Channel protocol over Ethernet. iSCSI can run over layer 2 and 3 networks while FCoE is Layer 2 only. FCoE requires a lossless network, typically implemented using DCB (Data Center Bridging) Ethernet and specialized switches.

    Q. You pointed out that at least twice that people incorrectly predicted the end of Fibre Channel, but it didn’t happen. What makes you say Fibre Channel is actually going to decline this time?

    A. Several things are different this time. First, Ethernet is now much faster than Fibre Channel instead of the other way around. Second, Ethernet networks now support lossless and RDMA options that were not previously available. Third, several new solutions–like big data, hyper-converged infrastructure, object storage, most scale-out storage, and most clustered file systems–do not support Fibre Channel. Fourth, none of the hyper-scale cloud implementations use Fibre Channel and most private and public cloud architects do not want a separate Fibre Channel network–they want one converged network, which is usually Ethernet.

    Q. Which storage protocols support RDMA over Ethernet?

    A. The Ethernet RDMA options for storage protocols are iSER (iSCSI Extensions for RDMA), SMB Direct, NVMe over Fabrics, and NFS over RDMA. There are also storage solutions that use proprietary protocols supporting RDMA over Ethernet.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    It’s Time for a Re-Introduction to Ethernet Networked Storage

    July 7th, 2016

    Ethernet technology had been a proven standard for over 30 years and there are many networked storage solutions based on Ethernet. While storage devices are evolving rapidly with new standards and specifications, Ethernet is moving towards higher speeds as well: 10Gbps, 25Gbps, 50Gbps and 100Gbps….making it time to re-introduce Ethernet Networked Storage.

    That’s exactly what Rob Davis and I plan to do on August 4th in a live SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum Webcast, “Re-Introducing Ethernet Networked Storage.” We will start by providing a solid foundation on Ethernet networked storage and move to the latest advancements, challenges, use cases and benefits. You’ll hear:

    • The evolution of storage devices – spinning media to NVM
    • New standards: NVMe and NVMe over Fabric
    • A retrospect of traditional networked storage including SAN and NAS
    • How new storage devices and new standards would impact Ethernet networked storage
    • Ethernet based software-defined storage and the hyper-converged model
    • A look ahead at new Ethernet technologies optimized for networked storage in the future

    I hope you will join us on August 4th at 10:00 a.m. PT. We’re confident you will learn some new things about Ethernet networked storage. Register today!


    New Webcast: Data Center Congestion Control

    August 5th, 2015

    How do new architectures being deployed in today’ s data centers affect IP-based storage? Find out on September 15th in our next SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum live Webcast, “Data Center Congestion Control,” where we will discuss new architectures and a new congestion control mechanism called CONGA. Developed from research done at Stanford, CONGA is a network-based distributed congestion-aware load balancing mechanism. It is being researched for use in next generation data centers to help enhance IP-based storage networks and is becoming available in commercial switches. This Webcast will dive into:

    • A definition of CONGA
    • How CONGA efficiently handles load balancing and asymmetry without TCP modifications
    • CONGA as part of a new data center fabric
    • Spine-Leaf/CLOS architectures
    • Affects of 40g/100g in these architectures
    • The CONGA impact on IP storage networks

    Discover the new data center architectures that will support the most demanding applications such as big data analytics and large-scale web services. As always, this Webcast will be live. I encourage you to register today and bring your questions.

     


    Relentless Advance Of Ethernet – And Ethernet Storage Networking

    March 31st, 2014

    As one Cisco colleague once said to me, “After the nuclear holocaust, there will be two things left: cockroaches and Ethernet.”  Not sure I like Ethernet’s unappealing company in that statement, but the truth it captures is that Ethernet, now entering its fifth decade (wow!), is ubiquitous and still continuing to advance at a breathtaking pace.  And as it advances, it advances the capabilities of storage networking based on the Ethernet backbone, be it file storage like NFS or SMB or block storage like iSCSI or FCoE.

    Most recent evidence of Ethernet’s continuing and relentless evolution is illustrated in the 28 March 2014 announcement from the Ethernet Alliance congratulating the IEEE on formation of their IEEE P802.3bs™ Task Force:

    The new group is chartered with the development of the IEEE P802.3bs 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) project, which will define Ethernet Media Access Control (MAC) parameters, physical layer specifications, and management parameters for the transfer of Ethernet format frames at 400 Gb/s. As the leading voice of the Ethernet ecosystem, the Ethernet Alliance is ideally positioned to support this latest move towards standardizing and advancing 400Gb/s technologies through efforts such as the launch of the Ethernet Alliance’s own 400 GbE Subcommittee.

    Ethernet is in production today from multiple vendors at 40GbE and supports all storage protocols, including FCoE, at those speeds.  Market forecasters expect the first 100GbE adapters to appear in 2015.  Obviously, it is too early to forecast when 400GbE will arrive, but the train is assuredly in motion.  And support for all the key storage protocols we see today on 10GbE and 40GbE will naturally extend to 100GbE and 400GbE.  Jim O’Reilly makes similar points in his recent Information Week article, “Ethernet: The New Storage Area Network where he argues, “Ethernet wins on schedule, cost, and performance.”

    Beyond raw transport speed, the rich Ethernet infrastructure offers techniques to catapult your performance even beyond the fastest single-pipe speed.  The Ethernet world has established techniques for what is alternately referred to as link aggregation, channel bonding, or teaming.  The levels available are determined by the capabilities provided in system software and what switch vendors will support.  And those capabilities, in turn, are determined by what they respectively see as market demand.  VMware, for example, today will let you bond eight 10GbE channels into a single 80GbE pipe.  And that’s today with mainstream 10GbE technology.

    Ethernet will continue to evolve in many different ways to support the needs of the industry.  Serving as a backbone for all storage networking traffic is just one of many such roles for Ethernet.  In fact, precisely because of the increasing breadth of usage models Ethernet supports, it will also continue to offer cost advantages.  The argument here is a very simple volume argument:

    Total Server-class Adapter and LOM Market Ports

    crehan-relentless-ethernet-420

    Enough said, except to also note that volume is what funds speed roadmaps.