At the dawn of the 21st century, and in order to meet the market demand, data center architects started to move away from the traditional scale-up architecture, which suffered from a limited and expensive scalability, to a scale-out architecture. Looking backward, it was the right direction to take, since that the ongoing growth of data and mobile applications has required efficient and easy-to-scale infrastructure that the new architecture successfully enables.
However, as we roll into 2017 and beyond, IT managers that deploy data centers that are based on scale-out architecture, should be aware that, in the past, when scale-up architecture were used, in order to maximize the efficiency, they had only to verify that the performance of the CPU, memory and storage needs to be balanced, in the new scale-out architecture, the networking performance should be taken into consideration too.
There are couple of parameters that IT managers need to consider in 2017 when choosing the right networking for its next-generation deployments. The first, of course, is the networking speed. Although today, 10GbE is the most popular speed, the industry has already started to realize that 25GbE provides higher efficiency and that it is fast becoming the next 10GbE. 25GbE will become the new 10GbE in 2017. The main reason behind this prediction is the much higher bandwidth that flash-based storage, such as NVMe, SAS and SATA SSD can provide; whereas a single 25GbE port replaces three 10GbE ports. This by itself, can cut the networking cost by three fold, enabling the use of a single switch port, a single NIC port and a single cable instead of three each. As IT managers start looking at next year’s budget, they know this is where they should be allocating their networking dollars.
Another couple of good examples for 2017, is where higher bandwidth enables higher efficiency. This will be happening more and more next year in VDI deployment, where a 25GbE solution cuts the cost per Virtual Desktop in half, or when deploying new infrastructure that has to support modern media and entertainment requirements, and 10GbE can’t deliver any additional the speed to support the number of streams that are required for today’s high definition resolutions. As IT managers revisit those all-important 2017 budgets, ROI will become more and more important as companies are increasingly unwilling to take the performance-cost trade off. Essentially, in 2017, IT Managers and their companies want to have their networking cake and eat it too.
However, deploying higher speed networking speed is just one way that IT managers can use to take their cloud efficiency to the next level. As they consider their options, they also should use networking products that offloads specific networking functions from the CPU to the IO controller itself. By choosing this solution, more CPU cycles are going to be freed to run the applications that will accelerate the job’s completion and enable using less CPUs or CPUs with less cores. Ultimately, in 2107, the overall licenses fees for the OS or and the hypervisor will be lower – both of course, will increase the overall cloud efficiency.
There are several network functions that have been offloaded already to the IO controller. One of the most widely used is RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) which offloads to the NIC to run the transport later, instead of running the heavy and CPU demanding TCP/IP protocol over the CPU. This is the main reason why IT managers should consider deploying RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet) next year. Using RoCE makes data transfers more efficient and enables fast data movement between servers and storage without involving the server’s CPU. Throughput is increased, latency reduced, and CPU power freed up for running the real applications. RoCE is already widely used for efficient data transfer in render farms and in large cloud deployments such as Microsoft Azure. Moreover it has proven, superior efficiency vs. TCP/IP and thus will be utilized more than ever before in 2017.
Offloading overlay network technologies such as VXLAN, NVGRE and the new Geneve standard on the NIC or VTEP on the switch enables another significant cloud accretion. It represents another typical stateless networking function that, by offloading it, the jobs execution time is significantly shortened. One of the good examples is the comparison that Dell published, running typical enterprise applications over its PCS appliance, with and without NVGRE offloading. This shows that offloading accelerated the applications by more than 2.5 times, over the same system, which of course, increased the overall system efficiency by the same amount.
There are several other offloads that are supported by the networking components, like the offloading of the security functions, for example, IPSEC or erasure coding which is being used in Storage Systems. In addition, a couple of IO solutions providers already announced that their next generation products will include new offload functions, such as vSwitch offloading which will accelerate virtualization or NVMeoF offload. This has also been announced by Mellanox in their next ConnectX-5 NIC which we believe will proliferate as a solution of choice in 2017.
Those new networking capabilities have already been added to the lead OS and Hypervisors. At VMworld’16 VMware already announced support for all networking speeds 10, 25, 40, 50 and 100 GbE and VM-to-VM communication over RoCE in their vSphere 6.5. Also, Microsoft, at their recent Ignite’16 conference, announced the support of up to 100 GbE and that for production deployment of Storage Spaces Direct, they recommend running over RoCE. They have also published superior SQL 2016 performance results, when running over a network that support the highest speeds and RoCE. Those capabilities have been included in Linux for a very long time too. So, now, as we see a New Year looming on the horizon, it’s up to IT architects to choose the right networking speeds and offloads that will take their cloud efficiency to the next level in 2017.
This post originally appeared on VMblog here.