People often ask me why Mellanox is interested in storage, since we make high-speed InfiniBand and Ethernet infrastructure, but don’t sell disks or file systems. It is important to understand the four biggest changes going on in storage today: Flash, Scale-Out, Appliances, and Cloud/Big Data. Each of these really deserves its own blog but it’s always good to start with an overview.
Flash is a hot topic, with IDC forecasting it will consume 17% of enterprise storage spending within three years. It’s 10x to 1000x faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) with both higher throughput and lower latency. It can be deployed in storage arrays or in the servers. If in the storage, you need faster server-to-storage connections. If in the servers, you need faster server-to-server connections. Either way, traditional Fibre Channel and iSCSI are not fast enough to keep up. Even though Flash is cheaper than HDDs on a cost/performance basis, it’s still 5x to 10x more expensive on a cost/capacity basis. Customers want to get the most out of their Flash and not “waste” its higher performance on a slow network.
Flash can be 10x faster in throughput, 300-4000x faster in IOPS per GB (slide courtesy of EMC Corporation)
The second-biggest change is scale-out, where storage is distributed and shared across multiple nodes. Scale-out storage has multiple controllers presenting one distributed set of volumes or file systems. Shared server storage (aka Server SAN) shares each server’s local or direct-attached disk, allowing each server to act as both compute and storage. In both cases, a fast and low-latency network allows each node to access remote storage as quickly as if it were local to that node. Examples of scale-out storage include EMC Isilon, EMC XtremIO, and IBM XIV. Examples of scale-out server storage include EMC ScaleIO and clustered file systems such as Lustre, IBM GPFS, Red Hat Gluster, and Quantum StorNext. All these scale-out solutions support Mellanox InfiniBand and/or 40Gb Ethernet for clustering to maximize performance.
Scale-out can be a scale-out flash array such as EMC XtremIO or shared server storage.
The third big change in storage are appliances, also known as CompuStorage or converged infrastructure. These are purpose-built stacks that include compute, networking, and storage and are designed to run specific applications such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, VMware, or HyperV. Customers like that they are pre-sized, easy to buy, and quick to deploy without guesswork. Appliance designers typically prefer a converged network for compute and storage, such as InfiniBand or Data Center Bridging (DCB) 40Gb Ethernet, and they can design in the most efficient interconnect rather than being limited to what customers already have in their data centers. For example, both Oracle Exadata and the Microsoft Parallel Data Warehouse solutions from Dell and HP use Mellanox InfiniBand inside.
Cloud and Big Data
These are two solutions with many storage similarities. Both require many servers and support large amounts of data, so customers are cost-conscious and often choose open-source solutions such as Hadoop and OpenStack. Big data usually uses local storage for each server, but can use centralized storage to improve efficiency or manage traditional row data warehouses. Cloud usually uses centralized storage, but can choose distributed local storage for objects and large public cloud or Web 2.0 deployments. Both cloud and big data sometimes leverage flash faster performance, and either way you need fast networks to ingest, analyze and share the data. Mellanox has solutions to accelerate both cloud and big data storage, including specific solutions to accelerate VMware, Hyper-V, KVM, OpenStack Cinder, and Hadoop.
New Storage Paradigms, New Networks
Each of these four trends is changing the way customers buy and deploy storage, providing an opportunity to rethink storage architectures and networking. All of them require faster networking solutions, either server-to-server or server-to-storage, and Mellanox offers the fastest interconnect available for either Ethernet or InfiniBand.
Author: John Kim is Director of Storage Marketing at Mellanox Technologies, where he helps storage customers and vendors benefit from high performance interconnects and RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access). After starting his high tech career in an IT helpdesk, John worked in enterprise software and networked storage, with many years of solution marketing, product management, and alliances at enterprise software companies, followed by 12 years working at NetApp and EMC. Follow him on Twitter: @Tier1Storage.