• Home
  • About

    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!

    Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE): Hype vs. Reality

    January 7th, 2014

    It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for FCoE, which started out with more promise than it was able to deliver. In theory, the benefits of a single converged LAN/SAN network are fairly easy to see. The problem was, as is often the case with new technology, that most of the theoretical benefit was not available on the initial product release. The idea that storage traffic was no longer confined to expensive SANs, but instead could run on the more commoditized and easier-to-administer IP equipment was intriguing, however, new 10 Gbps Enhanced Ethernet switches were not exactly inexpensive with few products supporting FCoE initially, and those that did, did not play nicely with products from other vendors.

    Keeping FCoE “On the Single-Hop”?

    The adoption of FCoE to date has been almost exclusively “single-hop”, meaning that FCoE is being deployed to provide connectivity between the server and the Top of Rack switch. Consequently, traffic continues to be broken out one way for IP, and another way for FC. Breaking out the traffic makes sense—by consolidating network adapters and cables, it adds value on the server access side.

    A significant portion of FCoE switch ports come from Cisco’s UCS platform, which runs FCoE inside the chassis. In terms of a complete end-to-end FCoE solution, there continues to be very little multi-hop FCoE happening, or ports shipping on storage arrays.

    In addition, FCoE connections are more prevalent on blade servers than on stand-alone servers for various reasons.

    • First, blades are used more in a virtualized environment where different types of traffic can travel on the same link.
    • Second, the migration to 10 Gbps has been very slow so far on stand-alone servers; about 80% of these servers are actually still connected with 1 Gbps, which cannot support FCoE.

    What portion of FCoE-enabled server ports are actually running storage traffic?

    FCoE-enabled ports comprise about a third of total 10 Gbps controller and adapter ports shipped on servers. However, we would like to bring to readers’ attention the wide difference between the portion of 10 Gbps ports that is FCoE-enabled and the portion that is actually running storage traffic. We currently believe less than a third of the FCoE-enabled ports are being used to carry storage traffic. That’s because the FCoE port, in many cases, is provided by default with the server. That’s the case with HP blade servers as well as Cisco’s UCS servers, which together are responsible for around 80% of the FCoE-enabled ports. We believe, however, that in the event that users buy separate adapters they will most likely use that adapter to run storage traffic—but they will need to pay an additional premium for this – about 50% to 100% – for the FCoE license.

    The Outlook

    That said, whether FCoE-enabled ports are used to carry storage traffic or not, we believe they are being introduced at the expense of some FC adapters. If users deploy a server with an FCoE-enabled port, they most likely will not buy a FC adapter to carry storage traffic. Additionally, as Ethernet speeds reach 40 Gbps, the differential over FC will be too great and FC will be less likely to keep pace.

    About the Authors

    Casey Quillin is a Senior Analyst, Storage Area Network & Data Center Appliance Market Research with the Dell’Oro Group

    Sameh Boujelbene is a Senior Analyst, Server and Controller & Adapter Market Research with the Dell’Oro Group

    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?
    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?
    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?
    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?
    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?
    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?
    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?
    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