By Ravi Prakash, Director Product Marketing
A high-performance vehicle proves its value only if you have an unrestricted track where you can exercise its potential. NVMe proves its value to business-critical applications when it is available end-to-end from the compute hosting applications down to the shared storage.
NVMe over Fabric (Ethernet, Fibre Channel, InfiniBand®) gives you the benefits of shared NVMe storage but with the latencies normally associated with Direct Attached Storage (DAS). Your application can now access NVMe SSDs on shared storage while they appear to be directly attached to the application server.
NVMe over Fabric using Fibre Channel (NVMe-oF or FC-NVMe) is the union of a memory-oriented technology such as NVMe with a storage-oriented technology such as Fibre Channel. It aims to introduce no more than 10 microseconds (µsec) of additional latency when accessing NVMe shared storage over a SAN fabric as compared to accessing a native NVMe device within a server. NVMe over Fibre Channel is an INCITS/T11 standard and offers a way to extend the NVMe command set over Fibre Channel. Just as you have SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) payload within a Fibre Channel frame (SCSI FCP), in the same manner you can have NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) payload within a Fibre Channel frame.
Appeal of NVMe-oF
If you have 16G or 32G Fibre Channel fabric deployed in your data center and want the benefits of deploying NVMe end-to-end but are reluctant to introduce Ethernet or InfiniBand for RDMA traffic, NVMe-oF is a natural fit. Since it is based on Fibre Channel, a stable, mature and proven transport protocol, you have the option to leverage familiar services such as fabric-based zoning and name services (to translate device addresses into names that are people-friendly). Another advantage is that you do not have to change your FC Gen5 or Gen 6 switches or ISLs but can continue to use them for NVMe traffic. You do not have to make any changes to your business-critical applications.
Support for NVMe-oF From Infrastructure Vendors
NVMe is supported by most major operating systems (Windows, Linux), Gen 6 (32G) HBAs from Broadcom (Emulex) and Cavium (QLogic), SAN switch products such as Cisco MDS 9000 32G FC switches and Brocade G620 and G630, storage arrays such as Dell EMC PowerMax, Pure Storage FlashArray//X and NetApp AFF arrays running ONTAP 9.4. What started out as cutting-edge technology is now available in the mainstream.
Applications That Benefit from NVMe End-to-End
You might wonder – why would I architect a busy data-center around NVMe-oF? One reason is the performance boost. A Demartek analyst report claims that NVMe-oF delivered 58% higher IOPs and 34% lower latency than SCSI FCP. This type of performance boost would benefit existing high-performance latency-sensitive block workloads such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, SAP and Epic.
In Healthcare, electronic health records (EHR) applications such as Epic benefit from ultra-low latency end-to-end as offered by NVMe-oF. Our AIOPs based hybrid infrastructure management platform VirtualWisdom is widely deployed by healthcare organizations to ensure performance of Epic.
In Financial Services, applications such as online transaction processing and credit card fraud prevention, where ultra-low latency is a requirement, will benefit from deploying NVMe end to end.
In Surveillance and Security, facial recognition technology used with surveillance cameras will also benefit from NVMe. At Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport if you are over 18, have a biometric French passport you can use the automated fast track crossing system PARAFE which uses facial recognition. The system has a few seconds to determine whether you might pass, or you must be interviewed further. Facial recognition systems such as these, if used with shared network storage, would benefit from NVMe end-to-end.
VirtualWisdom Support for NVMe-oF
VirtualWisdom is the only off-box analytics and visualization platform recommended by Cisco for receiving and analyzing telemetry data from Cisco MDS 32G FC switches with Cisco SAN Analytics enabled on the line cards. Just as VirtualWisdom is capable of ingesting and correlating SCSI FC data it can also parse NVMeoF data to give you application-centric insights into wire-data. The benefit to you is that without using TAPs or Hardware Performance probes you get visibility into every I/O associated with application conversations passing through the Cisco MDS switch in your network. Learn more from this joint solution brief created by Cisco and Virtual Instruments.
Virtual Instruments demonstrated NVMe-oF interoperability with Cisco at Dell Technologies World 2019. We welcome potential Beta customers who would like to evaluate this functionality in a laboratory environment before it is generally available. If this is of interest, please contact your Regional Sales Manager or contact me.
WorkloadWisdom Support for NVMe-oF
When you are ready to understand the performance benefits of deploying NVMe-oF end-to-end in your enterprise, WorkloadWisdom from Virtual Instruments, used with SANBlaze technology can help in your journey. SANBlaze technology handles NVMe protocol emulation and traffic generation between the initiator and target while WorkloadWisdom builds a model on top to simulate the application behavior. For more details check out this recorded webinar.
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