Virtual I/O for storage networks


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Virtualizing network resources can help reduce the contention for services and significantly improve performance.

The network -- both storage and IP -- is the next target in the march toward a totally virtualized data center. Virtual I/O is more than a nice-to-have feature; it’s essential to providing a more economical infrastructure that can meet the new I/O demands being placed on storage systems by server and desktop virtualization. Virtual I/O can be implemented in the host that’s connecting to the network and storage system, or it can be deployed in the infrastructure. Where it’s implemented may slightly alter the definition of virtual I/O. We’ll look at both approaches and describe how they’re different, as well as how they can work together.

Today’s server/host barely resembles its predecessors from four or five years ago. In the past, when a single server supported a single application, all its I/O capabilities where dedicated to that application. In the virtualized data center, the network interface cards (NICs) and storage host bus adapters (HBAs) in a host system are now shared across multiple

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virtual machines (VMs). In a traditional server architecture, those two I/O adapter types (NICs and HBAs) were separate from each other. Now, thanks to iSCSI, network-attached storage (NAS) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), they’re becoming unified (or “converged”) and potentially can all run on the same physical adapter card inside the host.

This was first published in March 2012

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