Wired Ethernet

3 Posts authored by: Brian Yoshinaka

The following blog post was originally published on NetApp’s SANbytes blog to commemorate the launch of the NetApp X1120A-R6 10-BASE-T adapter – the latest milestone in the long and fruitful relationship between the companies. We’re reposting it here because it's a good overview of the state of the art in Ethernet storage networking.

 

When two leaders like Intel and NetApp work together on storage networking, the industry should expect big things. Intel® Xeon® processor-based storage systems from NetApp, for example, are delivering new levels of performance for customers around the world who are trying to keep up with the ever-increasing amounts of data generated by their users and applications. Intel and NetApp have also collaborated on many engineering efforts to improve performance of storage protocols including iSCSI and NFS.

 

This week’s announcement of the NetApp X1120A-R6 10GBASE-T adapter, which is based on the Intel® Ethernet Controller X540, is another significant development for Ethernet-based storage. Virtualization and converged data and storage networking have been key drivers of the migration to 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE), and NetApp was an early adopter of the technology. Today, many applications are optimized for 10GbE. VMware vSphere, for example,
allows vMotion (live migration) events to use up to eight Gigabits of bandwidth and move up to eight virtual machines simultaneously. These actions rely on high-bandwidth connections to network storage systems.

 

10 Gigabit connectivity in these systems isn’t new, so why is the NetApp X1120A-R6 adapter special? For starters, it’s the first 10GBASE-T adapter supported by NetApp storage systems (including the FAS3200, FAS6200,
and the new FAS8000 lines), and we believe 10GBASE-T will have a huge appeal to data center managers who are looking to upgrade from one Gigabit Ethernet to a higher-speed network. 

 

There are a few key reasons for this:

 

  • 10GBASE-T allows IT to use their existing Category 6/6A twisted-pair copper cabling. And for new installations, this cabling is far more cost-effective than other options.
  • Distance flexibility: 10GBASE-T supports distances up to 100 meters and can be field-terminated, making it a great choice for short or long connections in the data center.
  • Backwards-compatibility: Support for one Gigabit Ethernet (1000GBASE-T) allows for easy, phased migrations to 10GbE.

The NetApp X1120A-R6 adapter gives data center operators a new option for cost-effective and flexible high-performance networking. For the first time, they’ll be able to use 10GBASE-T to connect from server to switch
to storage system.

 

Intel and NetApp have worked together to drive the market transition to 10GbE unified networking for many years, and this announcement is another example of our commitment to bringing these technologies to our customers.

 

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of 10GBASE-T, here are a couple of great resources:

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @Connected_Brian 

Just a quick note to let you know that we’ll be shutting down the Intel® Ethernet Twitter handle (@IntelEthernet) this week.

 

Does that mean you’ll no longer be able to get information on Intel Ethernet? Hardly. If you want to be in the loop for the latest and greatest, follow these two handles:

@thehevy: Brian Johnson, Intel® Ethernet solutions architect. Brian is one of our technology gurus and is responsible for many of our white papers, event speaking sessions, and customer education efforts.

@IntelITS: Intel® IT Solutions – Data Center & IT best practices, strategies, and tools from experts at Intel. That includes Intel Ethernet, of course.

 

Twitter was and remains a great way for you to learn about our latest products and technologies, as well as our thoughts on new developments in Ethernet and networking.

 

I hope you’ll continue to follow us using these new handles.

 

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite pictures that we shared over the last few years.

 

twitter.gif

Last month at Cisco Live* in San Diego, Cisco announced the first 10GBASE-T member of its Cisco Nexus* 5000 switch family, the Nexus 5596T. This new switch is a great complement to 10GBASE-T LAN on motherboard (LOM) connections powered by the Intel® Ethernet Controller X540.  Intel is a major proponent of 10GBASE-T, and we believe it will help drive 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) adoption by lowering costs and giving IT organizations an easy migration path from Gigabit Ethernet (GbE).

 

I caught up with Kaartik Viswanath, product manager for the Nexus 5000 family, at the show last week and asked him a few questions about the Nexus 5596T and Cisco’s views on 10GBASE-T. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

 

BY: Kaartik, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions today. Tell me about the Nexus 5596T switch and 10GBASE-T module that Cisco announced yesterday.

KV: Sure. We’re very excited about the new Nexus 5596T switch. It’s the first 10GBASE-T member of the Nexus 5000 family, and it’s coming at the perfect time, with 10GBASE-T LOM connections now being integrated onto mainstream server motherboards. LOM integration will help drive 10GbE adoption, and all those new 10GBASE-T ports need a high-performance, high-port-density switch to connect to. The Nexus 5596T has 32 fixed 10GBASE-T ports, and through the addition of the new 12-port 10GBASE-T Cisco Generic Expansion Module (GEM), it can support up to 68 total 10GBASE-T ports in a two-RU (rack unit) design. Plus, customers can deploy any of the existing GEMs in any of the Nexus 5596T’s three GEM slots.

 

The Nexus 5596T also includes 16 fixed SFP+ ports, which customers can use to connect to aggregation switches, servers, or Nexus 2000 Fabric Extenders using optical fiber or direct attach copper connections. With the Nexus 5596T switch, our customers have the flexibility to deploy both 1/10GBASE-T Ethernet on Copper and FC/FCoE/Ethernet on SFP+ ports on the same chassis.

 

BY: Are you hearing a lot of interest in 10GBASE-T from your customers?

KV: Yes, definitely, and I think there are a couple of major reasons for that. First, 10GBASE-T offers the easiest path for folks looking to migrate from One Gigabit Ethernet (GbE). 10GBASE-T uses the same twisted-pair copper cabling and RJ-45 connectors as existing GbE networks, and it’s backwards-compatible with all the 1000BASE-T products out there today. That means you can replace your existing 1000BASE-T switch with a Nexus 5596T and connect to both 10GBASE-T and 1000BASE-T server connections. And as you’re ready, you can upgrade servers to 10GBASE-T.

 

I think the other big reason 10GBASE-T is so appealing is the deployment flexibility it offers; 100 meters of reach is sufficient for the vast majority of data center deployments, whether it’s top-of-rack, middle-of-row, or end-of-row.  Plus, twisted-pair copper cabling is much more cost-effective than the fiber or direct-attach copper cabling that’s used in the majority of 10GbE deployments today.

 

BY: Cisco and Intel both support multiple 10GbE interfaces in their products. How do you see 10GBASE-T fitting into the mix?

KV: We’ll support whichever interfaces our customers want to use. However, there are some general guidelines that most folks seem to be following. For longer distances – over 100 meters – SFP+ optical connections are really the only choice, given their longer reach.  But fiber costs really don’t lend themselves to broad deployment. Today, most 10GbE deployments use the top of rack model, where servers connect to an in-rack switch using SFP+ direct attach copper (DAC) connections. DAC reach is only seven meters, but that’s plenty for any intra-rack connections.

 

10GBASE-T hits sort of a sweet spot because of its distance capabilities. It can connect switches to servers in top of rack deployments, with cables that are less expensive than SFP+ DAC, or it can be used for the longer runs where fiber is being used today – up to 100 meters, of course.

 

There are cases where SFP+ has some advantages, particularly for latency-sensitive applications or if the customers are sensitive to power consumption, but when it comes to deployment flexibility, costs, and ease of implementation, 10GBASE-T is well-positioned as the interface of choice for broad adoption.

 

BY: How about Fibre Channel over Ethernet? Does the Nexus 5596T switch support FCoE over 10GBASE-T?

KV: Great question. FCoE is a key ingredient in Cisco’s unified fabric vision, and it’s supported in our 10 Gigabit Nexus and UCS product lines. The Nexus 5596T hardware is FCoE-capable like all of our Nexus 5000 switches, and we’re working on FCoE characterization in our labs. We’ve been working closely with Intel to verify FCoE interoperability with the Intel® Ethernet Controller X540.

 

There’s been a fair amount of discussion in the industry around whether 10GBASE-T is a suitable fabric for FCoE. Our collaboration with our ecosystem partners, including Intel, network cable vendors, and storage vendors, will help ensure there aren’t any issues before we enable the feature on the Nexus 5596T. Assuming everything goes well, we’ll also enable FCoE over 10GBASE-T in our 12-port 10GBASE-T GEM Module as well as our fabric extender line with the upcoming Nexus 2232TM-E Fabric Extender.

 

You can ready the full interview and sample my witticisms in this post in the Intel Data Stack community.

 

 

For the latest, follow us on Twitter: @IntelEthernet.

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