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    Questions on the 2017 Ethernet Roadmap for Networked Storage

    January 9th, 2017

    Last month, experts from Dell EMC, Intel, Mellanox and Microsoft convened to take a look ahead at what’s in store for Ethernet Networked Storage this year. It was a fascinating discussion of anticipated updates. If you missed the webcast, “2017 Ethernet Roadmap for Networked Storage,” it’s now available on-demand. We had a lot of great questions during the live event and we ran out of time to address them all, so here are answers from our speakers.

    Q. What’s the future of twisted pair cable? What is the new speed being developed with twisted pair cable?

    A. By twisted pair I assume you mean USTP CAT5,6,7 etc.  The problem going forward with high speed signaling is the USTP stands for Un-Shielded and the signal radiates off the wire very quickly.   At 25G and 50G this is a real problem and forces the line card end to have a big, power consuming and costly chip to dig the signal out of the noise. Anything can be done, but at what cost.  25G BASE-T is being developed but the reach is somewhere around 30 meters.  Cost, size, power consumption are all going up and reach going down – all opposite to the trends in modern high speed data centers.  BASE-T will always have a place for those applications that don’t need the faster rates.

    Q. What do you think of RCx standards and cables?

    A. So far, Amphenol, JAE and Volex are the suppliers who are members of the MSA. Very few companies have announced or discussed RCx.  In addition to a smaller connector, not having an EEPROM eliminates steps in the cable assembly manufacture, hence helping with lowering the cost when compared to traditional DAC cabling. The biggest advantage of RCx is that it can help eliminate bulky breakout cables within a rack since a single RCx4 receptacle can accept a number of combinations of single lane, 2 lane or 4 lane cable with the same connector on the host. RCx ports can be connected to existing QSFP/SFP infrastructure with appropriate cabling. It remains to be seen, however, if it becomes a standard and popular product or remain as a custom solution.

    Q. How long does AOC normally reach, 3m or 30m?  

    A. AOCs pick it up after DAC drops off about 3m.  Most popular reaches are 3,5,and 10m and volume drops rapidly after 15,20,30,50, and100. We are seeing Ethernet connected HDD’s at 2.5GbE x 2 ports, and Ceph touting this solution.  This seems to play well into the 25/50/100GbE standards with the massive parallelism possible.

    Q. How do we scale PCIe lanes to support NVMe drives to scale, and to replace the capacity we see with storage arrays populated completely with HDDs?

    A. With the advent of PCIe Gen 4, the per-lane rate of PCIe is going from 8 GT/s to 16GT/s. Scaling of PCIe is already happening.

    Q. How many NVMe drives does it take to saturate 100GbE?

    A. 3 or 4 depending on individual drives.

    Q. How about the reliability of Ethernet? A lot of people think Fibre Channel has better reliability than Ethernet.

    A. It’s true that Fibre Channel is a lossless protocol. Ethernet frames are sometimes dropped by the switch, however, network storage using TCP has built in error-correction facility. TCP was designed at a time when networks were less robust than today. Ethernet networks these days are far more reliable.

    Q. Do the 2.5GbE and 5GbE refer to the client side Ethernet port or the server Ethernet port?

    A. It can exist on both the client side and the server side Ethernet port.

    Q. Are there any 25GbE or 50GbE NICs available on the market?

    A. Yes, there are many that are on the market from a number of vendors, including Dell, Mellanox, Intel, and a number of others.

    Q. Commonly used Ethernet speeds are either 10GbE or 40GbE. Do the new 25GbE and 50GbE require new switches?

    A. Yes, you need new switches to support 25GbE and 50GbE. This is, in part, because the SerDes rate per lane at 25 and 50GbE is 25Gb/s, which is not supported by the 10 and 40GbE switches with a maximum SerDes rate of 10Gb/s.

    Q. With a certain number of SerDes coming off the switch ASIC, which would you prefer to use 100G or 40G if assuming both are at the same cost?

    A. Certainly 100G. You get 2.5X the bandwidth for the same cost under the assumptions made in the question.

    Q. Are there any 100G/200G/400G switches and modulation available now?

    A. There are many 100G Ethernet switches available on the market today include Dell’s Z9100 and S6100, Mellanox’s SN2700, and a number of others. The 200G and 400G IEEE standards are not complete as of yet. I’m sure all switch vendors will come out with switches supporting those rates in the future.

    Q. What does lambda mean?

    ALambda is the symbol for wavelength.

    Q. Is the 50GbE standard ratified now?

    A. IEEE 802.3 just recently started development of a 50GbE standard based upon a single-lane 50 Gb/s physical layer interface. That standard is probably about 2 years away from ratification. The 25G Ethernet Consortium has a ratified specification for 50GbE based upon a dual-lane 25 Gb/s physical layer interface.

    Q. Are there any parallel options for using 2 or 4 lanes like in 128GFCp?

    A. Many Ethernet specifications are based upon parallel options. 10GBASE-T is based upon 4 twisted-pairs of copper cabling. 100GBASE-SR4 is based upon 4 lanes (8 fibers) of multimode fiber. Even the industry MSA for 100G over CWDM4 is based upon four wavelengths on a duplex single-mode fiber. In some instances, the parallel option is based upon the additional medium (extra wires or fibers) but with fiber optics, parallel can be created by using different wavelengths that don’t interfere with each other.

     

     


    10 Gigabit Ethernet – 2H12 Results and 2013 Outlook

    April 18th, 2013

    Seamus Crehan, President, Crehan Research Inc.

    2H12 results

    2012 turned out be another very strong growth year for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE), with the data center switch market and the server-class adapter and LAN-on-Motherboard (LOM) market both growing more than 50%.  Broad long-term trends such as virtualization, convergence, data center network traffic growth, cloud deployments, and price declines were helped further by more specific demand drivers, many of which materialized in the latter half of 2012. These included the adoption of Romley servers, expanded 10GBASE-T product offerings for both switches and servers, 10GbE LOM solutions for volume rack servers (which drive the majority of server shipments), and the public cloud’s migration to 10GbE for mainstream server networking access. (The SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum wrote about many of these in its July 2012 whitepaper titled 10GbE Comes of Age).

    However, despite another stellar growth year, 10GbE still remained a minority of the overall data center and server shipment mix (see Figure 1).  

    Crehan figure 1

    Furthermore, its adoption hit some turbulence in the latter half of 2012, mostly related to the initial high prices and the learning curve associated with the new Modular LOM form-factor, resulting in some inventory issues.  Another drag on 2H12 10GbE growth was the lack of comprehensive 10GBASE-T offerings from many market participants. Although we saw a very significant step up in 10GBASE-T shipments in 2012, limited product offerings throughout much of 2012 capped its adoption at under less than 10% of total 10GbE shipments.

    But these 2H12 issues were more than offset by 10GbE entering its next major stage of volume server adoption during this time period.  Crehan Research reported a near-50% increase in 2H12 10GbE results as many public cloud, Web 2.0, and massively scalable data center companies deployed 10GbE servers and server-access data center switches. We believe this is the second of three major stages of mainstream 10GbE server adoption, the first of which was driven by blade servers. The third will be driven by the upgrade of the traditional enterprise segment’s large installed base of 1GbE rack and tower server ports to 10GbE.

    2013 expectations

    As we move through 2013, Crehan Research expects the following factors to have positive impacts on the 10GbE market, driving it closer to becoming the majority data center networking interconnect:

    Better pricing and understanding of Modular LOMs.  Initial pricing on 10GbE Modular LOMs has been relatively high, contributing to slower adoption and inventory issues.  In the past, end customers were given the higher-speed LOM for free for example, during the 1GbE and blade-server 10GbE transitions.  The Modular LOM is a new product form-factor, and it takes time for buyers and sellers to get comfortable with and fully understand it. During 2013, we should see lower pricing for this class of product, driving a higher server attach rate.

    Comprehensive 10GBASE-T product offerings. 2013 should finally bring complete 10GBASE-T product offerings from the major server and switch OEMs, helping drive stronger 10GBASE-T adoption and growth. More specifically, we should see more 10GBASE-T LOMs in addition to top-of-rack and end-of-row data center switches. Furthermore, we expect many of these products to be attractively priced, in order to entice the large installed base of 1GBASE-T customers to upgrade to 10GbE.

    Higher-speed uplink, aggregation, and core data center switches. Servers and server-access switches likely won’t see volume deployments to 10GbE without robust and cost-effective higher-speed uplink, aggregation, and core networking options. These have now begun to arrive with 40GbE, and we are starting to see a strong ramp for this technology. Crehan Research expects 2013 to bring the advent of many 40GbE data center switches, and foresees all of the major switch vendors rolling out offerings in 2013. In contrast with the early days of 10GbE, 40GbE prices are already close to parity on a bandwidth basis with 10GbE and have settled on a single interface form factor (QSFP), which should propel 40GbE data center switches to a much stronger start than that seen by 10GbE data center switches.

    Continued traction of 10GbE for storage applications. We expect that 2013 will see a continuation of the broader adoption of 10GbE as a storage protocol, in both the public cloud and traditional enterprise segments.  Although Fibre Channel remains a very important data center storage networking technology, Fibre Channel switch and Host Bus Adapter (HBA) shipments each declined slightly in 2012 and have seen flat compound annual growth rates over the past four years (see Figure 2). We expect this gradual Fibre Channel decline to continue in 2013 as more customers run Ethernet-based protocols such as NAS, iSCSI and FCoE, especially over 10GbE, for their storage needs and deployments.

    Crehan figure 2


    Take Our 10GBASE-T Quick Poll

    March 13th, 2013

    I’ve gotten some interesting feedback on my recent 10GBASE-T blog, “How is 10GBASE-T Being Adopted and Deployed.” It’s prompted us at the ESF to learn more about your 10BASE-T plans. Please let us know by taking our 3-question poll. I’ll share the results in a future blog post.

    Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll. Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll. Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

    Will Ethernet storage move to 10GBASE-T?

    August 2nd, 2012

    10GBASE-T is a technology that runs 10Gb Ethernet over familiar Category 6/6a cables for distances up to 100m and is terminated by the ubiquitous RJ-45 jack. Till now, most datacenter copper cabling has been special Direct Attach cables for distances up to 7m terminated by an SFP+ connector. To work, data center switches need matching SFP+ connectors, meaning new switches are required for any data center making the move from 1GbE to 10GbE. 10GBASE-T is generating a lot of interest in 2012 as the first single-chip implementations at lower power (fanless) and lower cost (competitive with Direct Attach NICs) come to market. A data center manager now has an evolutionary way to incorporate 10GbE that exploits the cabling and switches already in place. The cost savings from preserving existing cabling alone can be tremendous.

    But is 10GBASE-T up to the task of carrying storage traffic? The bit-error rate technical tests of 10GBASE-T look promising. 10GBASE-T is meeting the 10-12 BER requirements of all the relevant Ethernet and storage specifications. We expect NAS and iSCSI to move rapidly to take advantage of the deployment cost savings offered by 10GBASE-T. Admins responsible for NAS and iSCSI storage over Ethernet should find 10GBASE-T meets their reliability expectations.

    But what about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)? Note that storage admins responsible for FC and/or FCoE are among the most risk-adverse people on the planet. They especially need to be confident that any new technology, no matter how compelling its benefits, doesn’t appreciably increase the risk of data loss. For this reason, they are adopting FCoE very slowly, though the economics make FCoE very compelling. So a broad market transition to FCoE over 10GBASE-T is likely to take some time regardless.

    Cisco announced in June 2012 a new 5000-series Nexus switch supporting up to 68 ports of “FCoE-ready” 10GBASE-T. Cisco has made the investment to support storage protocols, including FCoE, over 10GBASE-T in this switch and is committed to working with the industry to do the testing to prove its robustness. In fact, some eager end-users are getting ahead of this testing, and, based on results from their own stress tests, moving now to storage over 10GBASE-T deployments, including FCoE.

    Every major speed and capabilities transition for Ethernet has engendered skeptics. The transition to running storage protocols over 10GBASE-T is no different. General consensus is that the “jury is out” for FCoE over 10GBASE-T. The interoperability and stress testing to prove reliability isn’t complete. And storage admins will generally want to see reports from multiple deployments before they move. But the long-term prognosis for storage – NAS, iSCSI, and FCoE — over 10GBASE-T is looking very encouraging.


    Will Ethernet storage move to 10GBASE-T?

    August 2nd, 2012

    10GBASE-T is a technology that runs 10Gb Ethernet over familiar Category 6/6a cables for distances up to 100m and is terminated by the ubiquitous RJ-45 jack. Till now, most datacenter copper cabling has been special Direct Attach cables for distances up to 7m terminated by an SFP+ connector. To work, data center switches need matching SFP+ connectors, meaning new switches are required for any data center making the move from 1GbE to 10GbE. 10GBASE-T is generating a lot of interest in 2012 as the first single-chip implementations at lower power (fanless) and lower cost (competitive with Direct Attach NICs) come to market. A data center manager now has an evolutionary way to incorporate 10GbE that exploits the cabling and switches already in place. The cost savings from preserving existing cabling alone can be tremendous.

    But is 10GBASE-T up to the task of carrying storage traffic? The bit-error rate technical tests of 10GBASE-T look promising. 10GBASE-T is meeting the 10-12 BER requirements of all the relevant Ethernet and storage specifications. We expect NAS and iSCSI to move rapidly to take advantage of the deployment cost savings offered by 10GBASE-T. Admins responsible for NAS and iSCSI storage over Ethernet should find 10GBASE-T meets their reliability expectations.

    But what about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)? Note that storage admins responsible for FC and/or FCoE are among the most risk-adverse people on the planet. They especially need to be confident that any new technology, no matter how compelling its benefits, doesn’t appreciably increase the risk of data loss. For this reason, they are adopting FCoE very slowly, though the economics make FCoE very compelling. So a broad market transition to FCoE over 10GBASE-T is likely to take some time regardless.

    Cisco announced in June 2012 a new 5000-series Nexus switch supporting up to 68 ports of “FCoE-ready” 10GBASE-T. Cisco has made the investment to support storage protocols, including FCoE, over 10GBASE-T in this switch and is committed to working with the industry to do the testing to prove its robustness. In fact, some eager end-users are getting ahead of this testing, and, based on results from their own stress tests, moving now to storage over 10GBASE-T deployments, including FCoE.

    Every major speed and capabilities transition for Ethernet has engendered skeptics. The transition to running storage protocols over 10GBASE-T is no different. General consensus is that the “jury is out” for FCoE over 10GBASE-T. The interoperability and stress testing to prove reliability isn’t complete. And storage admins will generally want to see reports from multiple deployments before they move. But the long-term prognosis for storage – NAS, iSCSI, and FCoE — over 10GBASE-T is looking very encouraging.