• Home
  • About
  •  

    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.


    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.


    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


    SQL Server “rocks” with iSCSI – Emulex and NetApp tell why

    February 11th, 2011

    The leading storage network technology for mission critical applications today is Fibre Channel (FC). Fibre Channel is a highly reliable and high performing network technology for block storage applications. But, for organizations that can’t afford single purpose networks or the added complexity of managing more than one network technology, FC may not be ideal. With the introduction of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), the ability to deploy your FC storage resources over a shared Ethernet network is now possible. But, FCoE isn’t the only available option for block storage over Ethernet.

    Initially used primarily by small and medium sized businesses or for less demanding applications, iSCSI is now finding broad application by larger enterprises for mission critical applications. Some of the drivers for increased iSCSI adoption in the enterprise include lower cost for 10Gb Ethernet components as well as the drive toward cloud based infrastructures which benefit from increased flexibility and scalability associated with IP network protocols.

    On February 24th, the SNIA Ethrnet Storage Forum will present a live webcast to discuss the advantages of iSCSI storage for business applications and will show test results demonstrating the performance of SQL Server deployed with 10GbE iSCSI. Hosted by Gary Gumanow, co-chair of the iSCSI SIG and ESF board member, this presentation will include content experts from Emulex and NetApp along with a live Q&A.

    Guest Speakers

    Steve Abbott – Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Emulex

    Wei Liu – Microsoft Alliance Engineer, NetApp

    Data & Time: February 24th, 11am PT

    Register today at http://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/25316

    SNIA ESF

    The SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum is dedicated to educating the IT community on the advantages and best use of Ethernet storage. This presentation is the first in a series of marketing activities that will primarily focus on data center applications during the calendar year 2011.


    Ethernet and IP Storage – Today’s Technology Enabling Next Generation Data Centers

    October 21st, 2010

    I continue to believe that IP based storage protocols will be preferred for future data center deployments. The future of IT is pointing to cloud based architectures, whether internal or external. At the core of the cloud is virtualization. And I believe that Ethernet and IP storage protocols offer the greatest overall value to unlock the potential of virtualization and clouds. Will other storage network technologies work? Of course. But, I’m not talking about whether a network “works”. I’m suggesting that a converged network environment with Ethernet and IP storage offers the best combined value for virtual environments and cloud deployments. I’ve written and spoken about this topic before. And I will likely continue to do so. So, let me mention a few reasons to choose IP storage, iSCSI or NAS, for use in cloud environments.

    Mobility. One of the many benefits of server virtualization is the ability to non-disruptively migrate applications from one physical server to another to support load balancing, failover or redundancy, and servicing or updating of hardware. The ability to migrate applications is best achieved with networked storage since the data doesn’t have to move when a virtual machine (VM) moves. But, the network needs to maintain connectivity to the fabric when a VM moves. Ethernet offers a network technology capable of migrating or reassigning network addresses, in this case IP addresses, from one physical device to another. When a VM moves to another physical server, the IP addresses move with it. IP based storage, such as iSCSI, leverages the built in capabilities of TCP/IP over Ethernet to migrate network port addresses without interruption to applications.

    Flexibility. Most data centers require a mixture of applications that access either file or block data. With server virtualization, it is likely that you’ll require access to file and block data types on the same physical server for either the guest or parent OS. The ability to use a common network infrastructure for both the guest and parent can reduce cost and simplify management. Ethernet offers support for multiple storage protocols. In addition to iSCSI, Ethernet supports NFS and CIFS/SMB resulting in greater choice to optimize application performance within your budget. FCoE is also supported on an enhanced 10Gb Ethernet network to offer access to an existing FC infrastructure. The added flexibility to interface with existing SAN resources enhances the value of 10Gb as a long-term networking solution.

    Performance. Cost. Ubiquity. Other factors that enhance Ethernet storage and therefore IP storage adoption include a robust roadmap, favorable economics, and near universal adoption. The Ethernet roadmap includes 40Gb and 100Gb speeds which will support storage traffic and will be capable of addressing any foreseeable application requirements. Ethernet today offers considerable economic value as port prices continue to drop. Although Gb speeds offer sufficient bandwidth for most business applications, the cost per Gb of bandwidth with 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is now lower than GbE and therefore offers upside in cost and efficiency. Finally, nearly all new digital devices including mobile phones, cameras, laptops, servers, and even some home appliances, are being offered with WiFi connectivity over Ethernet. Consolidating onto a single network technology means that the networking infrastructure to the rest of the world is essentially already deployed. How good is that?

    Some may view moving to a shared network as kind of scary. The concerns are real. But, Ethernet has been a shared networking platform for decades and continues to offer enhanced features, performance, and security to address its increased application. And just because it can share other traffic, doesn’t mean that it must. Physical isolation of Ethernet networks is just as feasible as any other networking technology. Some may choose this option. Regardless, selecting a single network technology, even if not shared across all applications, can reduce not only capital expense, but also operational expense. Your IT personnel can be trained on a single networking technology versus multiple specialized single purpose networks. You may even be able to reduce maintenance and inventory costs to boot.

    Customers looking to architect their network and storage infrastructure for today and the future would do well to consider Ethernet and IP storage protocols. The advantages are pretty compelling.