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Storage networking catching up to SSD performance

Leah Schoeb of Evaluator Group discusses storage networking advancements that are enabling apps to take full advantage of SSD performance.

The storage industry has made a quantum leap in performance and latency with solid-state storage. Now storage networking technologies are playing catch-up so applications can utilize the maximum performance and low latency that solid-state technology offers. New fabric capabilities that increase performance and scale are a great start.

Traditional fabric architecture (Ethernet, Infiniband and standard PCIe) were designed to communicate with HDD storage systems using single-threaded sequential communication processes. There was a huge performance gap between compute power and storage. The advent of solid-state storage shifted the bottleneck from the storage device to the interconnection between storage and compute.

However, today that is changing. A3CUBE Inc. recently created new PCIe-based fabric technologies that extend the distance capabilities of PCIe. PCIe historically was only used inside of servers and storage systems because of distance limitations. Extending the distance capabilities of PCIe means it can be used in a fabric network between servers and solid-state storage arrays. This is great for accelerating and scaling more performance for all-flash arrays. It also offers a high-speed and highly scalable PCIe-based interconnect between servers and flash storage within a rack or up to 100 meters using a standard optical cable.

NIC boards that were typically used for passive copper cables are now being expanded by companies, such as FCI Electronics, for Fibre Channel (FC), and they are extending those adapter designs to support active optical cables. Current high-speed data transfers have physical limitations that could be overcome with real-time connectivity between compute and I/O using PCIe over optic cables.

This is great news for hyper-converged, scale-out storage products and globally shared resources in clusters. These systems can put extended-distance PCIe NIC boards to good use by centralizing high-speed caching instead of being distributed and managed by each server. Higher performance and lower latency communication between servers and solid-state storage arrays means service providers and other organizations that have rapid deployment requirements for high-speed infrastructure will have more choices when expanding their IT infrastructures.

All of this translates to better Tier-1 application performance with even lower response times and more efficient use of solid-state storage. Much solid-state storage performance has been left on the table using protocols and network communication that were designed to communicate with traditional HDD arrays. This new PCIe-based fabric enables IT organizations to get more out of solid-state storage.

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