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    2013 in Review and the Outlook for 2014 – A SNIA ESF Perspective

    January 28th, 2014

    Technology continues to advance rapidly. Making sense of it all can be a challenge. At the SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum, we focus on storage technologies and solutions enabled by and associated with Ethernet Networks. Last year, we modified the charters of our two Special Interest Groups (SIG) to address topics about file protocols and storage over Ethernet. The File Protocols SIG includes the prior focus on Network File System (NFS) related topics and adds discussions around Server Message Block (SMB / CIFS). We had our first webcast last November on the topic of SMB 3.0 and it was our best attended webcast ever. The Storage over Ethernet SIG focuses on general Ethernet storage topics as well as more information about technologies like FCoE, iSCSI, Data Center Bridging, and virtual networking for storage. I encourage you to check out other articles on these hot topics in this SNIAESF blog to hear from our member experts as well as guest posts from leading analysts.

    2013 was a busy year and we are already kickin’ it in 2014. This should be an exciting year in IT. Data storage continues to be a hot sector especially in the areas of All-Flash and Hybrid arrays. This year, we will expect to see new standards coming out of the T11 committee for Fibre Channel and possibly FCoE as well as progress in high speed Ethernet networks. Lower cost network interconnects will facilitate adoption of high speed networks in the small to midsize business segment. And a new conversation around “Software Defined…” should push a lot of ink in trade rags and other news sources. Oh, and don’t forget about the “Internet of Things”, mobile solutions, and all things Cloud.

    The ESF will be addressing the impact on Ethernet storage solutions from these hot technologies. Next month, on February 18th, experts from the ESF, along with industry analysts from Dell’Oro Group will speak to the benefits and best practices of deploying FCoE and iSCSI storage protocols. This presentation “Use Cases for iSCSI and Fibre Channel: Where Each Makes Sense” will be part of an upcoming BrightTalk Summit on Storage Networking. I encourage you to register for this session. Additionally, we will be publishing a couple of white papers on file-based storage and a review of FCoE and iSCSI in storage applications.

    Finally, SNIA will be kicking off its first year of the new user conference, Data Storage Innovation Conference. This will be one of the few storage focused user conferences in the market and should be quite interesting.

    We’re excited about our growing membership and our plans for 2014. Our goal is to advance application of innovative technologies and we encourage you to send us mail or comment below with topics that are of interest to you.

    Here’s to an exciting 2014!


    How DCB Makes iSCSI Better

    March 5th, 2013

    A challenge with traditional iSCSI deployments is the non-deterministic nature of Ethernet networks. When Ethernet networks only carried non-storage traffic, lost data packets where not a big issue as they would get retransmitted. However; as we layered storage traffic over Ethernet, lost data packets became a “no no” as storage traffic is not as forgiving as non-storage traffic and data retransmissions introduced I/O delays which are unacceptable to storage traffic. In addition, traditional Ethernet also had no mechanism to assign priorities to classes of I/O.

    Therefore a new solution was needed. Short of creating a separate Ethernet network to handle iSCSI storage traffic, Data Center Bridging (DCB), was that solution.

    The DCB standard is a key enabler of effectively deploying iSCSI over Ethernet infrastructure. The standard provides the framework for high-performance iSCSI deployments with key capabilities that include:
    - Priority Flow Control (PFC)—enables “lossless Ethernet”, a consistent stream of data between servers and storage arrays. It basically prevents dropped frames and maximizes network efficiency. PFC also helps to optimize SCSI communication and minimizes the effects of TCP to make the iSCSI flow more reliably.
    - Quality of Service (QoS) and Enhanced Transmission Selection (ETS)—support protocol priorities and allocation of bandwidth for iSCSI and IP traffic.
    - Data Center Bridging Capabilities eXchange (DCBX) — enables automatic network-based configuration of key network and iSCSI parameters.

    With DCB, iSCSI traffic is more balanced over high-bandwidth 10GbE links. From an investment protection perspective, the ability to support iSCSI and LAN IP traffic over a common network makes it possible to consolidate iSCSI storage area networks with traditional IP LAN traffic networks. There is also another key component needed for iSCSI over DCB. This component is part of Data Center Bridging eXchange (DCBx) standard, and it’s called TCP Application Type-Length-Value, or simply “TLV”! TLV allows the DCB infrastructure to apply unique ETS and PFC settings to specific sub-segments of the TCP/IP traffic. This is done through switches which can identify the sub-segments based on their TCP socket or port identifier which are included in the TCP/IP frame. In short, TLV directs servers to place iSCSI traffic on available PFC queues, which separates storage traffic from other IP traffic. PFC also eliminates data retransmission and supports a consistent data flow with low latency. IT administrators can leverage QoS and ETS to assign bandwidth and priority for iSCSI storage traffic, which is crucial to support critical applications.

    Therefore, depending on your overall datacenter environment, running iSCSI over DCB can improve:
    - Performance by insuring a consistent stream of data, resulting in “deterministic performance” and the elimination of packet loss that can cause high latency
    - Quality of service through allocation of bandwidth per protocol for better control of service levels within a converged network
    - Network convergence

    For more information on this topic or technologies discussed in this blog, please visit some of our other blog articles:
    - What Up with DCBX Blog and iSCSI over DCB: Reliability and predictable performance or check out the IEEE website on DCB


    Ethernet Storage Forum – 2012 Year in Review and What to Expect in 2013

    December 20th, 2012

    As we come to a close of the year 2012, I want to share some of our successes and briefly highlight some new changes for 2013. Calendar year 2012 has been eventful and the SNIA-ESF has been busy. Here are some of our accomplishments:

    • 10GbE – With virtualization and network convergence, as well as the general availability of LOM and 10GBASE-T cabling, we saw this is a “breakout year” for 10GbE. In July, we published a comprehensive white paper titled “10GbE Comes of Age.” We then followed up with a Webcast “10GbE – Key Trends, Predictions and Drivers.” We ran this live once in the U.S. and once in the U.K. and combined, the Webcast has been viewed by over 400 people!
    • NFS – has also been a hot topic. In June we published a white paper “An Overview of NFSv4” highlighting the many improved features NFSv4 has over NFSv3. A Webcast to help users upgrade, “NFSv4 – Plan for a Smooth Migration,” has also been well received with over 150 viewers to date.  A 4-part Webcast series on NFS is now planned. We kicked the series off last month with “Reasons to Start Working with NFSv4 Now” and will continue on this topic during the early part of 2013. Our next NFS Webcast will be “Advances in NFS – NFSv4.1 and pNFS.” You can register for that here.
    • Flash – The availability of solid state devices based on NAND flash is changing the performance efficiencies of storage. Our September Webcast “Flash – Plan for the Disruption” discusses how Flash is driving the need for 10GbE and has already been viewed by more than 150 people.

    We have also added to expand membership and welcome new membership from Tonian and LSI to the ESF. We expect with this new charter to see an increase in membership participation as we drive incremental value and establish ourselves as a leadership voice for Ethernet Storage.

    As we move into 2013, we expect two hot trends to continue – the broader use of file protocols in datacenter applications, and the continued push toward datacenter consolidation with the use of Ethernet as a storage network. In order to better address these two trends, we have modified our charter for 2013. Our NFS SIG will be renamed the File Protocol SIG and will focus on promoting not only NFS, but also SMB / CIFS solutions and protocols. The iSCSI SIG will be renamed to the Storage over Ethernet SIG and will focus on promoting data center convergence topics with Ethernet networks, including the use of block and file protocols, such as NFS, SMB, FCoE, and iSCSI, over the same wire. This modified charter will allow us to have a richer conversation around storage trends relevant to your IT environment.

    So, here is to a successful 2012, and excitement for the coming year.


    NFSv4.1 Webcast-Tuesday, August 28th

    August 24th, 2012

    NFSv4.1 is a mature and stable protocol with many advantages over NFSv3 in meeting the demands being placed on storage by exploding data growth. Now is the time to plan for a smooth migration. I encourage you to register for our live Webcast  on August 28th at http://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/663/52927.

    My colleague, Alex McDonald, and I will review what makes NFSv4.1 ideally suited to a wide range of data center and HPC uses. We’ll discuss how careful planning can result in a migration that does not require modification to applications, and that utilizes existing operational infrastructure in its deployment. You’ll see why you should be evaluating and using NFSv4.1 in 2012. And because it’s live, Alex and I will answer your questions on the spot. We hope to see you there. Here are the details:

    Date: Thursday, August 28, 2012
    Time: 8:00 am PT / 11:00 am ET / 3:00 pm GMT / 5:00 pm CET
    Register: http://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/663/52927
    We hope to see you there.


    Live Webcast: 10GbE – Key Trends, Drivers and Predictions

    July 12th, 2012

    The SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum (ESF) will be presenting a live Webcast on 10GbE on Thursday, July 19th.  Together with my SNIA colleagues, David Fair and Gary Gumanow, we’ll be discussing the technical and economic justifications that will likely make 2012 the “breakout year” for 10GbE.  We’ll cover the disruptive technologies moving this protocol forward and highlight the real-world benefits early adopters are seeing. I hope you will join us!

    The Webacast will begin at 8:00 a.m. PT/11:00 a.m. ET. Register Now: http://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/663/50385

    This event is live, so please come armed with your questions. We’ll answer as many as we can on the spot and include the full Q&A here in a SNIA ESF blog post.

    We look forward to seeing you on the 19th!


    Live Webcast: 10GbE – Key Trends, Drivers and Predictions

    July 12th, 2012

    The SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum (ESF) will be presenting a live Webcast on 10GbE on Thursday, July 19th.  Together with my SNIA colleagues, David Fair and Gary Gumanow, we’ll be discussing the technical and economic justifications that will likely make 2012 the “breakout year” for 10GbE.  We’ll cover the disruptive technologies moving this protocol forward and highlight the real-world benefits early adopters are seeing. I hope you will join us!

    The Webacast will begin at 8:00 a.m. PT/11:00 a.m. ET. Register Now: http://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/663/50385

    This event is live, so please come armed with your questions. We’ll answer as many as we can on the spot and include the full Q&A here in a SNIA ESF blog post.

    We look forward to seeing you on the 19th!


    Deploying SQL Server with iSCSI – Answers to your questions

    March 14th, 2011

    by: Gary Gumanow

    Last Wednesday (2/24/11), I hosted an Ethernet Storage Forum iSCSI SIG webinar with representatives from Emulex and NetApp to discuss the benefits of iSCSI storage networks in SQL application environments. You can catch a recording of the webcast on BrightTalk here.

    The webinar was well attended, and while we received so many great questions during the webinar we just didn’t have time to answer all of them. Which brings us to this blogpost. We have included answers to these unanswered questions in our blog below.
    We’ll be hosting another webinar real soon, so please check back for upcoming ESF iSCSI SIG topics. You’ll be able to register for this event shortly on BrightTalk.com.

    Let’s get to the questions. We took the liberty of editing the questions for clarity. Please feel free to comment if we misinterpreted the question.

    Question: Is TRILL needed in the data center to avoid pausing of traffic while extending the number of links that can be used?

    Answer: The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has developed a new shortest path frame Layer 2 (L2) routing protocol for multi-hop environments. The new protocol is called Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links, or TRILL. TRILL will enable multipathing for L2 networks and remove the restrictions placed on data center environments by STP single-path networks.

    Although TRILL may serve as an alternative to STP, it doesn’t require that STP be removed from an Ethernet infrastructure. Hybrid solutions that use both STP and TRILL are not only possible but also will be the norm for at least the near-term future. TRILL will also not automatically eliminate the risk of a single point of failure, especially in hybrid environments.

    Another area where TRILL is not expected to play a role is the routing of traffic across L3 routers. TRILL is expected to operate within a single subnet. While the IETF draft standard document mentions the potential for tunneling data, it is unlikely that TRILL will evolve in a way that will expand its role to cover cross-L3 router traffic. Existing and well-established protocols such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS) cover these areas and are expected to continue to do so.

    In summary, TRILL will help multipathing for L2 networks.

    Question: How do you calculate bandwidth when you only have IOPS?
    Answer:
    The mathematical formula to calculate bandwidth is a function of IOPS and I/O size. The formula is simply IOP x I/O size. Example: 10,000 IOPS x 4k block size (4096 bytes) = 40.9 MB/sec.

    Question: When deploying FCoE, must all 10GbE switches support Data Center Bridging (DCB) and FCoE? Or can some pass through FCoE?
    Answer:
    Today, in order to deploy FCoE, all switches in the data path must support both FCoE forwarding and DCB. Future standards include proposals to allow pass through of FCoE commands without having to support Fibre Channel services. This will allow for more cost effective networks where not all switch layers are needed to support the FCoE storage protocol.
    Question: iSCSI performance is comparable to FC and FCoE. Do you expect to see iSCSI overtake FC in the near future?
    Answer:
    FCoE deployments are still very small compared to traditional Fibre Channel and iSCSI. However, industry projections by several analyst firms indicate that Ethernet storage protocols, such as iSCSI and FCoE, will overtake traditional Fibre Channel due to increased focus on shared data center infrastructures to address applications, such as private and public clouds. But, even the most aggressive forecasts don’t show this cross over for several years from now.
    Customers looking to deploy new data centers are more likely today to consider iSCSI than in the past. Customers with existing Fibre Channel investments are likely to transition to FCoE in order to extend the investment of their existing FC storage assets. In either case, transitioning to 10Gb Ethernet with DCB capability offers the flexibility to do both.

    Question: With 16Gb/s FC ratified, what product considerations would be considered by disk manufacturers?
    Answer:
    We can’t speak to what disk manufacturers will or won’t do regarding 16Gb/s disks. But, the current trend is to move away from Fibre Channel disk drives in favor of Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and SATA disks as well as SSDs. 16Gb Fibre Channel will be a reality and will play in the data center. But, the prediction of some vendors is that the adoption rate will be much slower than previous generations.
    Question: Why move to 10GbE if you have 8Gb Fibre Channel? The price is about the same, right?
    Answer:
    If your only network requirement is block storage, then Fibre Channel provides a high performance network to address that requirement. However, if you have a mixture of networking needs, such as NAS, block storage, and LAN, then moving to 10GbE provides sufficient bandwidth and flexibility to support multiple traffic types with fewer resources and with lower overall cost.
    Question: Is the representation of number of links accurate when comparing Ethernet to Fibre Channel. Your overall bandwidth of the wire may be close, but when including protocol overheads, the real bandwidth isn’t an accurate comparison. Example: FC protocol overhead is only 5% vs TCP at 25%. iSCSI framing adds another 4%. So your math on how many FC cables equal 10 Gbps cables is not a fair comparison.

    Answer: As pointed out in the question, comparing protocol performance requires more than just a comparison of wire rates of the physical transports. Based upon protocol efficiency, one could conclude that the comparison between FC and TCP/IP is unfair as designed because Fibre Channel should have produced greater data throughput from a comparable wire rate. However, the data in this case shows that iSCSI offers comparable performance in a real world application environment, rather than just a benchmark test. The focus of the presentation was iSCSI. FCoE and FC were only meant to provide a reference points. The comparisons were not intended to be exact nor precise. 10GbE and iSCSI offers the performance to satisfy business critical performance requirements. Customers looking to deploy a storage network should consider a proof of concept to ensure that a new solution can satisfy their specific application requirements.

    Question: Two FC switches were used during this testing. Was it to solve an operation risk of no single point of failure?
    Answer:
    The use of two switches was due to hardware limitation. Each switch had 8-ports and the test required 8 ports at the target and the host. Since this was a lab setup, we weren’t configuring for HA. However, the recommendation for any production environment would be to use redundant switches. This would apply for iSCSI storage networks as well.
    Question: How can iSCSI match all the distributed management and security capabilities of Fibre Channel / FCoE such as FLOGI, integrated name server, zoning etc?
    Answer:
    The feature lists between the two protocols don’t match exactly. The point of this presentation was to point out that iSCSI is closing the performance gap and has enough high-end features to make it enterprise-ready.
    Question: How strong is the possibility that 40G Ethernet will be bypassed, with a move directly from 10G to 100G?
    Answer: Vendors are shipping products today that support 40Gb Ethernet so it seems clear that there will be a 40GbE. Time will tell if customers bypass 40GbE and wait for 100GbE.

    Thanks again for checking out our blog. We hope to have you on our next webinar live, but if not, we’ll be updating this blog frequently.

    Gary Gumanow – iSCSI SIG Co-chairman, ESF Marketing Chair