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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.

     

     


    Common Questions on Clustered File Systems

    November 18th, 2016

    More than 350 people have already seen our SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum (ESF) webcast “Clustered File Systems: No Limits.” Our presenters, James Coomer and Jerry Lotto, did a great job explaining what clustered file systems are, key considerations, choices and performance. As we expected, there were plenty of questions, so as promised, here are answers to them all.

    Q: Parallel NFS (pNFS) has been in development/standard effort for a long time, and I believe pNFS is not in the Linux kernel it appears pNFS is yet to be prime time.

    A: pNFS has been in Linux for over a decade! Clients and server are widely available, and you should look at the SNIA White Paper “An Updated Overview of NFSv4; NFSv4.0, NFSv4.1, pNFS, and NFSv4.2” for more information on the current state of play.

    Q: Why the emphasis on parallel I/O? Any single storage server can feed results at link capacity, so you do not need multiple storage servers to feed a client at full speed. Isn’t the more critical issue the bottleneck on access to metadata for a single directory or file? Federated NAS bottlenecks updates for each directory behind a single master server?

    A: Any one storage server can usually saturate one client, but often there are multiple hungry clients making requests simultaneously. Using parallel I/O allows multiple servers to feed multiple high-bandwidth clients across a narrow or wide set of data. This smooths out the I/O load on the servers in a near-perfect manner regardless of the number of clients performing I/O. It is absolutely true that metadata serving can become a bottleneck, so parallel file systems use cached and/or distributed metadata to overcome this and again, every client takes part in that interaction and shares some responsibility for managing communicating metadata updates.

    Q: Can any application access parallel file system (i.e. through an agent in the driver level)? Or does it require specific code within the application?

    A: Native access to a parallel file system requires a specific client or agent in the host, but many parallel file systems allow any client to access the data through a NAS protocol gateway. No changes are needed to applications to use a parallel file system – These parallel file systems are mounted as a POSIX compliant file system and therefore adhere to basically the same standards as an NFS mount for example.

    Q: Are parallel file system clients compatible with scale-out NAS servers?

    A: Nearly all scale-out NAS servers speak a standard NAS protocol like NFS or SMB. Clients running a parallel file system client can also access NAS via these standard protocols. Exceptions to this may possibly (but none that we know of) occur for scale-out NAS servers that support a modified NFS/SMB protocol or a custom NAS client which might conceivably conflict with the parallel file system client when installed on an OS.

    Q: Of course I am biased, but I am fond of the AFS (Andrew File System) Family of File Systems.   There is OpenAFS, but there is also what we are doing at AuriStor extending beyond the core AFS global namespace model (security functionality, and performance)

    A: AFS is another distributed file system which supports large scale deployments, native clients for many platforms, and strong security features. It also uses local caching of files to improve performance. It uses a weakly consistent file locking system so multiple clients can access the same file simultaneously but they cannot both update the same file at the same time. OpenAFS is an open-source implementation of AFS. Auristor (formerly Your File System, Inc.) is a startup providing a commercial parallel file system that is compatible with AFS.

    Q: I am more familiar with Veritas Cluster File System, could you please do a quick compare with Lustre or GPFS?

    A: The Veritas Cluster File System (formerly VxCFS, now part of Veritas InfoScale) is a distributed file system that runs on Linux and popular flavors of Unix. It supports up to 64 nodes and allows multiple nodes to share the same back-end storage hardware. Comparing it to Lustre and GPFS is beyond the scope of this webinar, but in basic terms, parallel file systems can offer far greater scalability and bandwidth for example, through the use of optimized RDMA clients for high performance networks.

    Q: Why do file apps need shared access to data, but block apps do not?

    A: Traditionally block storage did not offer shared access to data (except when used as shared back-end storage for a clustered file system), while apps that needed shared access to data usually chose to use a NAS protocol such as SMB or NFS. So in many cases file-based apps use file sharing protocols because they need shared access to data from multiple clients. (In other cases file-based applications do not require sharing but the storage administrators believe it’s easier to manage or less expensive than networked block storage.)

    Q: Do Lustre and GPFS have SMB Direct support?

    A: Not today. SMB Direct is an option to use RDMA and multi-channel with the SMB 3 protocol. Both Lustre and GPFS support the ability to export a file system via NFS or SMB, but generally they do not support SMB Direct yet. Both Lustre and GPFS support RDMA access through their clients.

    How to the clients avoid doing simultaneous writes to the same file?

    A: Some parallel file systems allow this by letting different clients write to different parts of the same file. Others do not allow this. In either case, distributed file locking is used to prevent two clients from writing simultaneously to the same part of a file (or to the same file if it’s not allowed).

    Q: How can you say that the application “does not have to worry about” how the clustered file system serializes writes? Doesn’t this require continuous end-to-end connectivity?

    A: When the application writes data it generally writes to a POSIX-compliant file system and does not need to worry about how the parallel file system serializes, distributes, or protects the data because this is virtualized (managed) by the file system. It usually does require continuous end-to-end connectivity from the clients to the servers, though in some cases caching could allow for brief gaps in connectivity and in some systems not every client needs to have network connectivity to every server. There are multiple mechanisms within parallel file systems to manage the various cases of clients/servers disappearing from the network, temporarily or permanently (whilst for example holding a lock).

    Q: How does a parallel file system handle the sequences of write on a same file? Just append one by one? What if a client modified a line?

    A: This is the biggest challenge for and reason to use a parallel file system.  Beneath the covers, coherency is maintained by Spectrum Scale using a token management server process which issues locks for object requests.  Similar functionality is implemented in Lustre using a distributed lock manager.  These objects are most commonly blocks within files rather than entire files, but this is application controlled.  The end result is a POSIX-compliant interface that scales to thousands of clients.

    Q: What does FPO stand for?

    A: File Placement Optimizer – a shared-nothing architecture and licensing model for IBM Spectrum Scale (aka GPFS). Learn more here.

    Q: Is there a concept in parallel file systems for “auto-tuning” yet? Seems like the early days of SAN management and tuning…

    A: Default tuning values are optimized for general purpose workloads, but the whole purpose of tuning parameters is to adjust away from those defaults to optimize the file system for a particular application workload or fil esystem architecture.  Both IBM and OpenSFS with the support of Intel have published extensive documentation on best practices for optimization and tuning for either file system.  We are not aware of any work on “automating” that process but there has been recent work (e.g. in spectrum scale) to simplify the tuning process.

    Q: Which is better as interconnect between disk and servers, shared access or share-nothing?

    A: The use of shared access in the interconnect between disks and servers is limited to providing HA functionality in Lustre or Spectrum Scale, the ability to service I/O requests to a storage device if the server which has primary responsibility for that device is not available.  This usually involves multiple server-attached external storage which can add cost to building the file system.  The alternative approach to HA is to replicate blocks of data to different disks on different servers, cutting back on the usable capacity of the file system.  If HA is not a requirement, a share-nothing architecture will generally involve less hardware and therefore be less expensive to build.

    If you have more questions, please comment on this blog. And I encourage you to check out the SNIA ESF webcast library for educational, vendor-neutral content on Ethernet networked storage topics


    Storage Basics Q&A and No One’s Pride was Hurt

    November 7th, 2016

    In the first of our “Everything You Wanted To Know About Storage But Were Too Proud To Ask – Part Chartreuse,” we covered the storage basics to break down the entire storage picture and identify the places where most of the confusion falls. It was a very well attended event and I’m happy to report, everyone’s pride stayed intact! We got some great questions from the audience, so as promised, here are our answers to all of them:

    Q. What is parity? What is XOR?

    A. In RAID, there are generally two kinds of data that are stored: the actual data and the parity data. The actual data is obvious; parity data is information about the actual data that you can use to reconstruct it if something goes wrong.

    It’s important to note that this is not simply a copy of A and B, but rather a logical operation that is applied to the data. Commonly for RAID (other than simple mirroring) the method used is called an exclusive or, or XOR for short. The XOR function outputs true only when inputs differ (one is true, the other is false).

    There’s a neat feature about XOR, and the reason it’s used by RAID. Calculate the value A XOR B (let’s call it AxB). Here’s an example on a pair of bytes.

    A                                  10011100

    B                                  01101100

    A XOR B is AxB              11110000

    Store all three values on separate disks. Now, if we lose A or B, we can use the fact that AxB XOR B is equal to A, and AxB XOR A is equal to B. For example, for A;

    B                                  01101100

    AxB                              11110000

    A XOR AxB is A              10011100

    We’ve regenerated the A we lost. (If we lose the parity bits, they can just be reconstructed from A and B.)

    Q. What is common notation for RAID? I have seen RAID 4+1, and RAID (4,1). In the past, I thought this meant a total of 5 disks, but in your explanation it is only 4 disks.

    A. RAID is notated by levels, which is determined by the way in which data is laid out on disk drives (there are always at least two). When attempting to achieve fault tolerance, there is always a trade-off between performance and capacity. Such is life.

    There are 4 common RAID levels in use today (there are others, but these are the most common): RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 6. As a quick reminder from the webinar (you can see pictures of these in action there):

    • RAID 0: Data is striped across the disks without any parity. Very fast, but very unsafe (if you lose one, you lose all)
    • RAID 1: Data is mirrored between disks without any parity. Slowest, but you have an exact copy of the data so there is no need to recalculate anything to reconstruct the data.
    • RAID 5: Data is striped across multiple disks, and the parity is striped across multiple disks. Often seen as the best compromise: Fast writes and good safety net. Can withstand one disk loss without losing data.
    • RAID 6: Data is striped across multiple disks, and two parity bits are stored on all the disks. Same advantages of RAID 5, except now you can lose 2 drives before data loss.

    Now, if you have enough disks, it is possible to combine RAID levels. You can, for instance, have four drives that combine mirroring and striping. In this case, you can have two sets of drives that are mirrored to each other, and the data is striped to each of those sets. That would be RAID 1+0, or often called RAID 10. Likewise, you can have two sets of RAID 5 drives, and you could stripe or mirror to each of those sets, and it would be RAID 50 or RAID 51, respectively.

    Erasure Coding has a different notation, however. It does not use levels like RAID; instead, EC identifies the number of data bits and the number of parity bits.

    So, with EC, you take a file or object and split it into ‘k’ blocks of equal size. Then, you take those k blocks and generate n blocks of the same size, such that any k out of n blocks suffice to reconstruct the original file. This results in a (n,k) notation for EC.

    Since RAID is a subset of EC, RAID6 is the equivalent of EC or RAID(n,2) or n data disks and 2 parity disks. RAID(4,1) is RAID5 with 4 data and 1 parity, and so on.

    Q. Which RAIDs are classified/referred to as EC? I have often heard people refer to RAID 5/6 as EC. Is this only limited to 5/6?

    A. All RAID levels are types of EC. The math is slightly different; traditional RAID uses XOR, and EC uses Galois Fields or polynomial arithmetic.

    Q. What’s the advantage of RAID5 over RAID1?

    A. As noted above, there is a tradeoff between the amount of capacity that you need in order to stay fault tolerant, and the performance you wish to have in any system.

    RAID 1 is a mirrored system, where you have a single block of data being written twice – one to each disk. This is done in parallel, so it doesn’t take any extra time to do the write, but there’s no speed-up either. One advantage, however, is that if a disk fails there is no need to perform any logical calculations to reconstruct data – you already have a copy of the intact data.

    RAID 5 is more distributed. That is, blocks of data are written to multiple disks simultaneously, along with a parity block. That is, you are breaking up the writing obligations across multiple disks, as well as sending parity data across multiple disks. This significantly speeds up the write process, but more importantly it also distributes the recovery capabilities as well so that any disk can fail without losing data.

    Q. So RAID improves WRITES? I guess because it breaks the data into smaller pieces that can be written in parallel. If this is true, then why will READ not benefit from RAID? Isn’t it that those pieces can be read and re-combined into a larger piece from parallel sources would be faster?

    A. RAID and the “striping” of IO can improve writes by reducing serialization by allowing us to write anywhere. But a specific block can only be read from the disk it was written to, and if we’re already reading or writing to that disk and it’s busy – we must wait.

    Q. Why is EC better for object stores than RAID?

    A. Because there’s more redundancy, EC can be made to operate across unreliable and less responsive links, and at potentially geographic scales.

    Q: Can you explain about the “RAID Penalty?” I’ve heard it called “Write Penalty” or “Read before Write penalty.”

    A. When updating data that’s already been written to disk, there’s a requirement to recalculate the parity data used by RAID. For example, if we update a single byte in a block, we need to read all the blocks, recalculate the parity, and write back the updated data block and the parity block (twice in the case of dual parity RAID6).

    There are some techniques that can be used to improve the performance impact. For example, some systems don’t update blocks in place, but use pointer-based systems and only write new blocks. This technique is used by flash-based SSDs as the write size is often 256KB or larger. This can be done in the drive itself, or by the RAID or storage system software. It is very important to avoid when using Erasure Coding as there are so many data blocks and parity blocks to recalculate and rewrite that it would become prohibitive to do an update.

    Q. What is the significance of RAIN? We have not heard much about it.

    A.A Redundant Array of Independent Nodes works under the same principles of RAID – that is, each node is treated as a failure domain that must be avoided as a Single Point of Failure (SPOF).Where as RAID maintains an understanding of data placement on individual drives within a node, RAIN maintains an understanding of data placement on nodes (that contain drives) within a storage environment.

    Q. Is host same as node?

    A. At its core, a “node” is an endpoint. So, a host can be a node, but so can a storage device at the other end of the wire.

    Q. Does it really matter what Erasure Coding (EC) technologies are named or is EC just EC?

    A. A. Erasure Coding notation refers to the level of resilience involved. This notation underscores not only the write patterns for storage of data, but also the mechanisms necessary for recovery. What ‘matters’ really will depend upon the level of involvement for those particular tasks.

    Q. Is the Volume Manager concept related to Logical Unit Numbering (LUNs)?

    A. It can be. A volume manager is an abstraction layer that allows a host operating system to create a Volume out of one or more media locations. These locations can be either logical or physical. A LUN is an aggregation of media on the target/storage side. You can use a Volume Manager to create a single, logical volume out of multiple LUNs, for instance.

    A. For additional information on this, you may want to watch our SNIA-ESF webcast, “Life of a Storage Packet (Walk).”

    Q. What’s the relationship between disk controller and volume manager?

    A. Following on the last question, a disk controller does exactly what it sounds like – it controls disks. A RAID controller, likewise, controls disks and the read/write mechanisms. Some RAID controllers have additional software abstraction capabilities that can act as a volume manager as well.

    We hope these answers clear things up a bit more. As you know, our “Everything You Wanted To Know About Storage, But Were Too Proud To Ask” is a series, since this Chartreuse event, we’ve done “Part Mauve – The Architecture Pod” where we explained channel vs. bus, control plane vs. data plane and fabric vs. network. Check it out on-demand and follow us on Twitter @SNIAESF for announcements on upcoming webcasts.

     

     


    2017 Ethernet Roadmap for Networked Storage

    November 2nd, 2016

    When SNIA’s Ethernet Storage Forum (ESF) last looked at the Ethernet Roadmap for Networked Storage in 2015, we anticipated a world of rapid change. The list of advances in 2016 is nothing short of amazing

    • New adapters, switches, and cables have been launched supporting 25, 50, and 100Gb Ethernet speeds including support from major server vendors and storage startups
    • Multiple vendors have added or updated support for RDMA over Ethernet
    • The growth of NVMe storage devices and release of the NVMe over Fabrics standard are driving demand for both faster speeds and lower latency in networking
    • The growth of cloud, virtualization, hyper-converged infrastructure, object storage, and containers are all increasing the popularity of Ethernet as a storage fabric

    The world of Ethernet in 2017 promises more of the same. Now we revisit the topic with a look ahead at what’s in store for Ethernet in 2017.  Join us on December 1, 2016 for our live webcast, “2017 Ethernet Roadmap to Networked Storage.”

    With all the incredible advances and learning vectors, SNIA ESF has assembled a great team of experts to help you keep up. Here are some of the things to keep track of in the upcoming year:

    • Learn what is driving the adoption of faster Ethernet speeds and new Ethernet storage models
    • Understand the different copper and optical cabling choices available at different speeds and distances
    • Debate how other connectivity options will compete against Ethernet for the new cloud and software-defined storage networks
    • And finally look ahead with us at what Ethernet is planning for new connectivity options and faster speeds such as 200 and 400 Gigabit Ethernet

    The momentum is strong with Ethernet, and we’re here to help you stay informed of the lightning-fast changes. Come join us to look at the future of Ethernet for storage and join this SNIA ESF webcast on December 1st. Register here.

     


    The Current State of Storage in the Container World

    October 25th, 2016

    It seems like everyone is talking about containers these days, but not everyone is talking about storage – and they should be. The first wave of adoption of container technology was focused on micro services and ephemeral workloads. The next wave of adoption won’t be possible without persistent, shared storage. That’s why the SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum is hosting a live webcast on November 17th, “Current State of Storage in the Container World.” In this webcast, we will provide an overview of Docker containers and the inherent challenge of persistence when containerizing traditional enterprise applications.  We will then examine the different storage solutions available for solving these challenges and provide the pros and cons of each. You’ll hear:

    • An Overview of Containers
      • Quick history, where we are now
      • Virtual machines vs. Containers
      • How Docker containers work
      • Why containers are compelling for customers
      • Challenges
      • Storage
    • Storage Options for Containers
      • NAS vs. SAN
      • Persistent and non-persistent
    • Future Considerations
      • Opportunities for future work

    This webcast should appeal to those interested in understanding the basics of containers and how it relates to storage used with containers. I encourage you to register today! We hope you can make it on November 17th. And if you’re interested in keeping up with all that SNIA is doing with containers, please sign up for our Containers Opt-In Email list and we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

     


    The Everything You Want To Know About Storage Is On Again With Part Mauve – The Architecture Pod

    October 11th, 2016

    The first installment of our “colorful” Webcast series, “Everything You Wanted To Know about Storage But Were Too Proud To Ask – Part Chartreuse,” covered the fundamental elements of storage systems. If you missed it, you can check it out on-demand. On November 1st, we’ll be back at it, focusing on the network aspect of storage systems with “Everything You Wanted To Know About Storage But Were Too Proud To Ask – Part Mauve.”

    As with any technical field, it’s too easy to dive into the jargon of the pieces and expect people to know exactly what you mean. Unfortunately, some of the terms may have alternative meanings in other areas of technology. In this Webcast, we look at some of those terms specifically and discuss them as they relate to storage networking systems.

    In particular, you’ll find out what we mean when we talk about:

    • Channel versus Busses
    • Control Plane versus Data Plane
    • Fabric versus Network

    Register now for Part Mauve of “Everything You Wanted To Know About Storage But Were Too Proud to Ask.

    For people who are familiar with data center technology, whether it be compute, programming, or even storage itself, some of these concepts may seem intuitive and obvious… until you start talking to people who are really into this stuff. This series of Webcasts will help be your Secret Decoder Ring to unlock the mysteries of what is going on when you hear these conversations. We hope to see you there!

     

     

     


    Clustered File Systems: No Limits

    October 7th, 2016

    Today’s storage world would appear to have been divided into three major and mutually exclusive categories: block, file and object storage. The marketing that shapes much of the user demand would appear to suggest that these are three quite distinct animals, and many systems are sold as exclusively either SAN for block, NAS for file or object. And object is often conflated with cloud, a consumption model that can in reality be block, file or object.

    A fixed taxonomy that divides the storage world this way is very limiting, and can be confusing; for instance, when we talk about cloud. How should providers and users buy and consume their storage? Are there other classifications that might help in providing storage solutions to meet specific or more general application needs? What about customers who need file access performance beyond what one storage box can provide? Which options support those who want scale-out solution like object storage with file protocol semantics?

    To clear up the confusion, the SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum is hosting a live Webcast, “Clustered File Systems: No Limits.” In this Webcast we will explore clustered storage solutions that not only provide multiple end users access to shared storage over a network, but allow the storage itself to be distributed and managed over multiple discrete storage systems. You’ll hear:

    • General principles and specific clustered and distributed systems and the facilities they provide built on the underlying storage
    • Better known file systems like NFS, IBM Spectrum Scale (GPFS) and Lustre, along with a few of the less well known
    • How object based systems like S3 have blurred the lines between them and traditional file based solutions

    This Webcast should appeal to those interested in exploring some of the different ways of accessing & managing storage, and how that might affect how storage systems are provisioned and consumed. POSIX and other acronyms may be mentioned, but no rocket science beyond a general understanding of the principles of storage will be assumed. Contains no nuts and is suitable for vegans!

    As always, our experts will be on hand to answer your questions on the spot. Register now for this October 25th event.

     


    Everything You Wanted to Know about Storage, but were too Proud to Ask

    July 18th, 2016

    Many times we know things without even realizing it, or remembering how we came to know them. In technology, this often comes from direct, personal experience rather than some systematic process. In turn, this leads to “best practices” that come from tribal knowledge, rather than any inherent codified set of rules to follow.

    In the world of storage, for example, it’s very tempting to simply think of component parts that can be swapped out interchangeably. Change out your spinning hard drives for solid state, for example, you can generally expect better performance. Change the way you connect to the storage device, get better performance… or do you?

    Storage is more holistic than many people realize, and as a result there are often unintended consequences for even the simplest of modifications. With the ‘hockey stick-like’ growth in innovation over the past couple of years, many people have found themselves facing terms and concepts in storage that they feel they should have understood, but don’t.

    These series of webcasts are designed to help you with those troublesome spots: everything you thought you should know about storage but were afraid to ask.

    Here, we’re going to go all the way back to basics and define the terms so that people can understand what people are talking about in those discussions. Not only are we going to define the terms, but we’re going to talk about terms that are impacted by those concepts once you start mixing and matching.

    For example, when we say that we have a “memory mapped” storage architecture, what does that mean? Can we have a memory mapped storage system at the other end of a network? If so, what protocol should we use – iSCSI? POSIX? NVMe over Fabrics? Would this be an idempotent system or an object-based storage system?

    Now, if that above paragraph doesn’t send you into fits of laughter, then this series of webcasts is for you (hint: most of it was complete nonsense… but which part? Come watch to find out!).

    On September 7th, we will start with the very basics – The Naming of the Parts. We’ll break down the entire storage picture and identify the places where most of the confusion falls. Join us in this first webcast – Part Chartreuse – where we’ll learn:

    • What an initiator is
    • What a target is
    • What a storage controller is
    • What a RAID is, and what a RAID controller is
    • What a Volume Manager is
    • What a Storage Stack is

    Too proud to ask

     

    With these fundamental parts, we’ll be able to place them into a context so that you can understand how all these pieces fit together to form a Data Center storage environment. Future webcasts will discuss:

    Part Mauve – Architecture Pod:

    • Channel v. bus
    • Control plane v. data plane
    • Fabric v. network

    Part Teal – Buffering Pod:

    • Buffering v. Queueing (with Queue Depth)
    • Flow Control
    • Ring Buffers

    Part Rosé – iSCSI Pod:

    • iSCSI offload
    • TCP offload
    • Host-based iSCSI

    Part Sepia – Getting-From-Here-To-There Pod:

    • Encapsulation v. Tuning
    • IOPS v. Latency v. Jitter

    Part Vermillion – The What-if-Programming-and-Networking-Had-A-Baby Pod:

    • Storage APIs v. POSIX
    • Block v. File v. Object
    • Idempotent
    • Coherence v. Cache Coherence
    • Byte Addressable v. Logical Block Addressing

    Part Taupe – Memory Pod:

    • Memory Mapping
    • Physical Region Page (PRP)
    • Scatter Gather Lists
    • Offset

    Part Turquoise – Where-Does-My-Data-Go Pod:

    • Volatile v. Non-Volatile v Persistent Memory
    • NVDIMM v. RAM v. DRAM v. SLC v. MLC v. TLC v. NAND v. 3D NAND v. Flash v SSDs v. NVMe
    • NVMe (the protocol)

    Part Burgundy – Orphans Pod

    • Doorbells
    • Controller Memory Buffers

    Of course, you may already be familiar with some, or all, of these concepts. If you are, then these webcasts aren’t for you. However, if you’re a seasoned professional in technology in another area (compute, networking, programming, etc.) and you want to brush up on some of the basics without judgment or expectations, this is the place for you.

    Oh, and why are the parts named after colors, instead of numbered? Because there is no order to these webcasts. Each is a standalone seminar on understanding some of the elements of storage systems that can help you learn about technology without admitting that you were faking it the whole time! If you are looking for a starting point – the absolute beginning place – please start with Part Chartreuse, “The Naming of the Parts.” We look forward to seeing you on September 7th at 10:00 a.m. PT. Register today.


    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!


    Principles of Networked Solid State Storage – Q&A

    June 22nd, 2016

    At this month’s SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum Webcast, “Architectural Principles for Networked Solid State Storage Access,” Doug Voigt, Chair of the SNIA NVM Programming Technical Working Group, and a member of the SNIA Technical Council, outlined key architectural principles surrounding the application of networked solid state technologies. We had a flurry of questions near the end of the Webcast that we did not have enough time to answer. Here are Doug’s answers to all the questions we received during the event:

    Q. Are there wait cycles in accessing persistent memory?

    A. It depends entirely on which persistent memory (PM) technology is being accessed and how the memory interconnect is used.  Some technologies have write times that are quite different from read times.  When using tightly timed interconnects such as DDR with those technologies it may be difficult to avoid wait cycles.

    Q. How do Pmalloc and malloc share the virtual address space of the application?

    A. This is entirely up to the OS and other libraries operating within any constraints of the processor architecture-specific memory management units.  A good mental model would be fairly large regions of contiguous address space in both the physical and virtual domains, where each region will comprise a single type of memory. Capacity will be reserved for pmalloc and malloc in the appropriate regions.

    Q. Always flush after doing your memory-mapped IO.  Is that simply good hygiene?

    A. Not exactly. The term “Memory Mapped IO” is used to reference control plane (as opposed to data plane) access.  It is often reasonable to set up control plane memory as uncacheable. The need for strict order of access to physical control plane registers is so pervasive that caching is generally not useful. Uncacheable writes are always flushed by the processor, as opposed to the application.

    Generally with memory mapped IO devices the data plane uses direct memory access (DMA).  With memory mapped files (as opposed to memory mapped IO) Load/Store (more commonly referred to as “Ld/St”), not DMA, is used in the data plane. Disabling caching in the data plane is generally a big performance sacrifice for small byte range access.

    In the Ld/St datapath, strategically placed flushing is required to retain both performance and power failure recovery. The SNIA NVM Programming Model describes this type of functionality.

    Q. Once NVDIMM support become pervasive with support from NVMe drives in the server box, should network storage be more focused on SAS Flash or just SAS HDDs?

    A. Not necessarily.  NVMe over Fabric, Fibre Channel and iSCSI are also types of networked storage that will likely retain significant market share relative to SAS.

    Q. Are the ‘Big Data’ Data Warehouse applications starting to use the persistence memory and domain technologies in their applications?

    A. It is too early to see much of this yet. PM technologies might become a priority as a staging area for analytic applications with high ingest or checkpoint rates. NVDIMMs are likely to be too expensive to store anything “big” for quite a while.

    Q. Also, is the persistence memory/domains being used in the Hyper-converged and Converged hardware infrastructures?

    A. Persistent memory is quintessentially (Hyper-) converged.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect some traction with hyper-converged solutions that experience high storage-performance demand.

    Q. What distance would you associate with 10’s of microseconds?

    A. In terms of transmission delay, 10’s of uS align with a campus or small city scale, but the distance itself is often not the primary factor.  Switching delays, transmission line properties and software overhead are generally bigger factors.

    Q. So latency would be the binding factor for distances…not a question, an observation.

    A. Yes, in effect, either through transmission or relay.  See above.

    Q. Aren’t there multi-threaded SSDs?

    A. Yes, but since the primary metric in this presentation is latency we ignore multi-threading.  It can enable more work to get done, but it generally increases latency rather than reducing it.

    Q. Is Pmalloc universal usage?

    A. The term is starting to be recognized among developers and has been used in research. Various similar names have been used in early research prototypessuch as pmalloc in Mnemosyne and nvmalloc in SCMFS.

    Q. So how would PM help in a (stock broking) requirement, where we currently prophesize an RDMA or iWARP solution?

    A. With PM the answer is always lower latency.  PM can be litegrated like memory or like flash. RDMA network paths for both of these options were discussed in the presentation. In either case, PM is low-latency enough that networking and software overheads will completely determine performance, even when using RDMA. The performance boost from PM is greatest when it is accessed locally.  If remote access is a requirement then the new work being done in the RDMA community should help.

    Q. If data stored in memory requires to be copied to a different host, memory (for consistency) how does PM assist, or is there an extension to PM? Coherency between multiple hosts in a cluster, if you will?

    A. PM technology does not help with this; the methods of managing consistency across hosts remain unchanged by PM.  All PM offers is low latency persistence.

    Coordination across hosts or nodes in a cluster must use existing clustering techniques such as locking and quorums. In addition, the relative timescales of memory access and network communication suggest the application of asynchronous remote replication techniques used in today’s storage solutions.

    Regarding coherency, PM brings nothing new to the known techniques for managing coherency.  Classical cluster architecture must be applied outside of symmetric multi-processing coherency domains. Within coherency domains, all of the logic is above the PM level in a processor side memory controller or a software emulation of the same algorithms.