All-Flash Arrays Generate New Interest in NVMe-Ready Fibre Channel

Celeste Crystal, Brocade

Digital transformation is driving new requirements for scalability, performance, and high IOPs/low-latency for storage, with access to data becoming more critical than ever. Advanced flash memory technologies are forcing an evolution of storage requirements that must simultaneously enable faster access to data while accommodating growing capacity, all at decreasing costs. By many accounts, all-flash array technologies will dominate the primary storage market by the end of this decade, creating a profound impact in enterprise storage as well as a corresponding pressure on infrastructure.

This proliferation of hybrid-flash and all-flash arrays – and the performance gains, faster IOPs, and lower latency that flash delivers – has resulted in a resurgence of interest in Fibre Channel. According to a recent TechTarget industry survey , 74% of IT professionals surveyed use Fibre Channel today and 86% plan to either increase their use of Fibre Channel or to remain on Fibre Channel, with 59% planning to increase their use of Fibre Channel. The combination of flash storage with Fibre Channel innovation continues to enable enterprise datacenters to keep up with the fastest workloads, especially as network performance increases from 16GFC to 32GFC.

There are key reasons why Fibre Channel commands its time-tested position in data center storage ecosystems:

Technology Maturity
The world’s data centers put their trust in Fibre Channel; 96% of the world’s banks, airlines and retailers run over Fibre Channel with over 30 billion transactions per day. For over 20 years, this technology has defined the gold standard in dependable storage traffic.

Scalability and Flexibility
Fibre Channel is the most scalable storage networking solution available in the world. In fact, a single fabric can enable up to tens of thousands of servers and storage devices, consolidating petabyte-scale storage in a single fabric. As a result, it easily scales to hundreds of thousands of workloads and thousands of storage devices. What’s more, Fibre Channel offers multiple configuration options, including point-to-point and switched networks, and can work over long distances for storage extension purposes.

High Availability, Reliabilityand Dependability
Since its earliest beginnings, Fibre Channel was designed to meet the requirements of highly demanding storage technology. Most importantly, it was created to address the highly-sensitive nature of mission-critical data needs. When it comes to storage, data loss is an unacceptable risk, and Fibre Channel has excelled by being the leading technology that can constantly meet the challenge of superior reliability and consistency. With its lossless and deterministic characteristics, Fibre Channel was engineered from its inception to ensure throughput requirements and low latency performance.

Manageability
One of the key advantages of Fibre Channel is the centralized configuration and administration. In Fibre Channel, every device is connected through a coherent fabric, where each switch is aware of the domain topology and has the autonomy of making the most efficient decisions for traffic delivery. This makes manageability easier, because instead of having to “touch” every device in the network, administrators simply enable the fabric to accommodate common rulesets. This enables the entire storage network to be managed as a single system.

Why the renewed interest in Fibre Channel? Fibre Channel technology has recently gained a new surge of interest from shared storage enthusiasts, network administrators, and the data center infrastructure community at large. New discussions around common data center storage networking protocols are now a top priority due to the rapid adoption of high-throughput flash storage arrays. High-performing, highly reliable, shared storage is essential for large-scale applications to deliver fast access to huge amounts of storage in a cost-effective, highly scalable way – these attributes are where Fibre Channel technology has exceeded benchmarks for decades. And with the advent of even more advanced flash technology and the new potential of blazing fast NVMe performance, an opportunity has opened up for organizations to fully benefit from the exceptional characteristics of high throughput random access, flash memory-based storage arrays with a high performing Fibre Channel infrastructure.

Fibre Channel Fabrics: Ready for NVMe and the flash future
It’s rare when an incumbent technology also has the built-in capability for the next new wave of innovation. As shown elsewhere in this Solutions Guide, the ability to seamlessly transition from 16GFC or Gen 6 Fibre Channel into NVMe-readiness offers operational risk mitigation to organizations that want to capitalize on their infrastructure investments while taking advantage of storage advances. If they wish to move forward to the fastest performance standards, all while preventing risk inherent in building parallel infrastructures and potentially increasing the TCO, Fibre Channel provides a well-tested and battle-hardened solution.

The NVMe over Fibre Channel standard is complete, making it the NVMe networking solution that is uniquely positioned among other emerging NVMe networking standards, with a clear path to the future. Current Fibre Channel customers benefit from the investment protection in their SAN infrastructure that can outlast the current generation of flash storage array investments. New customers will benefit from having a well-understood transport technology to underlie a new technology (NVMe), thus minimizing the risks inherent in “moving parts.”

With the Fibre Channel industry’s 20 years of hindsight and experience, organizations can now benefit from the foresight of future NVMe with the preparedness of what’s to come.


Footnotes

  1. The Future of Storage Protocols, April 2017, Gartner Research
  2. Tech Target Research, Storage Market Landscape Study, 1H 2017
2017-07-31T12:42:27+00:00 July 28th, 2017|

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