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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 

Intel is pleased to announce the Intel® Ethernet Server Adapter X520 Series for the Open Compute Project.

 

Available in both single and dual-port SKU’s, these adapters deliver a proven, reliable solution for deployments of Ethernet for high bandwidth, low cost, 10GbE network connections.  Increased I/O performance with Intel® Data Direct I/O Technology (DDIO) and support for intelligent offloads make this adapter a perfect match for scaling performance on Intel® Xeon® processor E5/E7 based servers.

 

The best-selling Intel® Ethernet Converged Network Adapter X520 Series is known for its high performance, low latency, reliability, and flexibility.  The addition of the Intel® Ethernet Server Adapter X520 Series for Open Compute Project to the family delivers all the X520 capabilities, in an Open Compute Project (OCP) form factor.  The Open Compute Project (OCP) is a Facebook* initiative to openly share custom data center designs to improve both cost and energy efficiency across the industry.  The OCP uses a minimalist approach to system design thereby reducing complexity and cost, allowing data centers to scale out more effectively.  By publishing the designs and specifications of this low-power, low-cost hardware, it can reduce the cost of infrastructure for businesses large and small.

 

For more information on the Intel® Ethernet Server Adapter X520 for Open Compute Project, visit:  http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/network-adapters/converged-network-adapters/server-adapter-x520-da1-da2-for-ocp-brief.html

 

For more general information on the Open Compute Project initiative, visit:  http://opencompute.org/

The Intel Developer Forum (IDF) was held last week and it was an amazing collection of the brightest minds in the industry looking to push the technology envelope.

 

Like in years past, when it comes time to for Intel® to debut its new products at IDF they are always better and more powerful.  But this year we had one announcement that bucked that trend.  It was a new product that was better and less powerful.

 

I’m talking about microservers, a new trend in computing where multiple, lower performance, lower power processors are used as servers for a new class of computing tasks. It was one of the topics I presented at two poster chats on Tuesday and to about 60 attendees during my technical session on Wednesday.

 

The microserver initiative fits with Intel’s strategy of developing “workload-optimized” solutions.  There are a lot of computing tasks, such as memory caching, dedicated webhosting and cold storage, where the processing and I/O demands per server are light.

 

To meet these needs, we formerly introduced the Intel Atom™ C2000, at a special event one week before IDF.

 

The density of microservers on a board makes networking these new systems a challenge. The power profile of the Atom™ C2000, for example, allows data center shelves with 48 microservers per board. A standard telecom rack can hold 12 of these shelves for a total of 576 microservers per rack. That’s more network connections than many enterprise workgroups.

 

However, by using the Intel® Ethernet Switch FM5224 chip, all of the processors on a shelf can be internetworked so that there are only a few uplink connections needed to a top of-rack-switch.  This makes it manageable from a connectivity perspective. 

 

But there’s still traffic from all of the processors that needs to be routed.  That is why we’re evolving our Open Network Platform (ONP) software-defined networking (SDN) architecture to support microservers. 

 

My colleague Recep wrote a post on this blog describing how SDN works just recently, so I’ll just summarize here to say that SDN shifts the packet processing intelligence from the switch to a centralized controller. This offers the benefit of reducing the complexity of network design and increasing the throughput.

 

Many microservers today are sold with proprietary networking software.  The issue with this is vendor lock in and the potential for slower pace of innovation.  This last point is important since many of the applications for microservers are cloud-based and that market is evolving very quickly.

 

Intel’s Open Network Platform combines the performance of our Intel Ethernet Switch FM5000/FM6000 high-volume, high performance switching hardware with ONP software based on Windriver Linux.  In addition, there are open APIs for drivers to eliminate vendor lock in and APIs for controllers and a wide variety of third-party apps and OEM apps.

 

What this means to microserver OEMs is that they can bring their own unique differentiating software to their products while at the same time integrating with an SDN controller or other app from a third party.  Cost is kept at a minimum while functionality and differentiation is maximized. 

 

The reception to this message at IDF13 was good and already several OEMs are planning to develop microserver products.  We’ll take a look at some of those designs in a future blog post.

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