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    Ethernet and IP Storage – Today’s Technology Enabling Next Generation Data Centers

    Posted by Jason Blosil

    I continue to believe that IP based storage protocols will be preferred for future data center deployments. The future of IT is pointing to cloud based architectures, whether internal or external. At the core of the cloud is virtualization. And I believe that Ethernet and IP storage protocols offer the greatest overall value to unlock the potential of virtualization and clouds. Will other storage network technologies work? Of course. But, I’m not talking about whether a network “works”. I’m suggesting that a converged network environment with Ethernet and IP storage offers the best combined value for virtual environments and cloud deployments. I’ve written and spoken about this topic before. And I will likely continue to do so. So, let me mention a few reasons to choose IP storage, iSCSI or NAS, for use in cloud environments.

    Mobility. One of the many benefits of server virtualization is the ability to non-disruptively migrate applications from one physical server to another to support load balancing, failover or redundancy, and servicing or updating of hardware. The ability to migrate applications is best achieved with networked storage since the data doesn’t have to move when a virtual machine (VM) moves. But, the network needs to maintain connectivity to the fabric when a VM moves. Ethernet offers a network technology capable of migrating or reassigning network addresses, in this case IP addresses, from one physical device to another. When a VM moves to another physical server, the IP addresses move with it. IP based storage, such as iSCSI, leverages the built in capabilities of TCP/IP over Ethernet to migrate network port addresses without interruption to applications.

    Flexibility. Most data centers require a mixture of applications that access either file or block data. With server virtualization, it is likely that you’ll require access to file and block data types on the same physical server for either the guest or parent OS. The ability to use a common network infrastructure for both the guest and parent can reduce cost and simplify management. Ethernet offers support for multiple storage protocols. In addition to iSCSI, Ethernet supports NFS and CIFS/SMB resulting in greater choice to optimize application performance within your budget. FCoE is also supported on an enhanced 10Gb Ethernet network to offer access to an existing FC infrastructure. The added flexibility to interface with existing SAN resources enhances the value of 10Gb as a long-term networking solution.

    Performance. Cost. Ubiquity. Other factors that enhance Ethernet storage and therefore IP storage adoption include a robust roadmap, favorable economics, and near universal adoption. The Ethernet roadmap includes 40Gb and 100Gb speeds which will support storage traffic and will be capable of addressing any foreseeable application requirements. Ethernet today offers considerable economic value as port prices continue to drop. Although Gb speeds offer sufficient bandwidth for most business applications, the cost per Gb of bandwidth with 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is now lower than GbE and therefore offers upside in cost and efficiency. Finally, nearly all new digital devices including mobile phones, cameras, laptops, servers, and even some home appliances, are being offered with WiFi connectivity over Ethernet. Consolidating onto a single network technology means that the networking infrastructure to the rest of the world is essentially already deployed. How good is that?

    Some may view moving to a shared network as kind of scary. The concerns are real. But, Ethernet has been a shared networking platform for decades and continues to offer enhanced features, performance, and security to address its increased application. And just because it can share other traffic, doesn’t mean that it must. Physical isolation of Ethernet networks is just as feasible as any other networking technology. Some may choose this option. Regardless, selecting a single network technology, even if not shared across all applications, can reduce not only capital expense, but also operational expense. Your IT personnel can be trained on a single networking technology versus multiple specialized single purpose networks. You may even be able to reduce maintenance and inventory costs to boot.

    Customers looking to architect their network and storage infrastructure for today and the future would do well to consider Ethernet and IP storage protocols. The advantages are pretty compelling.

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