Last month I provided an overview of the Brocade SAN Analytic Management Pack for VMware vCenter Operations Manager (vCOps). We also gave a talk on the solution at VMworld Barcelona to much interest. In a blog posted earlier this week, VMware’s Wayne Green also talks about why VMware is looking to ecosystem partners like Brocade to help round out the VMware cloud automation and operations offerings.
If you were unable to attend that session and would like to take a closer look at how Brocade is enabling SAN visibility for virtual infrastructure managers, you will want to attend an upcoming webinar hosted by VMware and Brocade on Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 10:00 AM PST. Please join us then.
[Note: I wrote this piece last weekend, because I knew that I’d be too busy to work on it this week. This explains the prematurely skeptical reference to the Red Sox.]
It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon here in Silicon Valley. It’s been a good weekend for sports: Manchester United won (finally!), Sebastian Vettel claimed his fourth F1 Driver's Championship, and the Patriots came from behind to thrash Miami. And then there’s the Red Sox; oh well, three out of four isn’t bad. But all of those events are sitting on my DVR, because for the next week I’m focussed on one thing: preparing for the upcoming OpenStack Summit.
This time next week I’ll be in Hong Kong as part of the Brocade team, joining thousands of cloud computing technologists, users, salespeople, and writers for a week of business and technical sessions. My main focus will be on the Design Summit sessions for Neutron, the OpenStack networking subsystem formerly known as Quantum. My colleagues will be involved in a variety of areas, including FC SAN features for the Cinder storage service, load balancers, and integration of our VCS fabric. Several of them are presenting in the main Summit. And we’ll all be talking to customers and partners.
OpenStack networking is complicated. This is mostly due to the fact that data center networking is going through a period of massive disruption in several different areas, leading to a combinatorial explosion of complexity. Overlay architectures, different kinds of tunneled underlay, the replacement of dedicated network equipment by software running in VMs, the emergence of controller-based SDN such as the OpenDaylight project, and the spectacular performance improvements in merchant silicon and x86 processors: these have resulted in many innovative products from startups and established vendors, all of whom are keen to participate in OpenStack. In part, it’s because the OpenStack mission has been expanding from a simple EC2-style IaaS to include legacy data center automation and carrier NFV. Public clouds emphasize abstraction and multi-tenant isolation, features which are less relevant for other users of the technology, and it's challenging to develop abstractions and APIs which address all of the use cases. There is still a lively debate on which parts of OpenStack are "core" elements of every OpenStack system. (Indeed the original Nova networking system is still the default; deprecation is planned for the upcoming Icehouse cycle.)
In this exciting and unpredictable environment, my team has been working on a project to manage some of the diversity. In our Dynamic Network Resource Manager (DNRM) Blueprint, we’re proposing a framework for managing the pool of physical and virtual network resources from multiple vendors. It borrows an idea from the OpenStack Nova scheduler: the use of a policy-based resource allocator that abstracts away the complexity of resource management, and allows each cloud operator to choose the resource allocation policy which fits their environment.
We’re demonstrating a proof-of-concept implementation of DNRM that uses the Brocade Vyatta vRouter, probably the most widely used virtual networking appliance. The DNRM resource manager uses Nova to provision a number of Vyatta virtual machines. Then a modified API handler in Neutron intercepts each client request to create an L3 Router, calls the policy-based DNRM allocator to find the best resource instance, examines the type of resource, and calls the appropriate driver (in this case the Vyatta driver) which talks to the VM to configure the vRouter. All of this can be viewed in the OpenStack Horizon dashboard; we've added a new panel which displays the state of the resource pool.
The Blueprint explores a range of use cases that are supported by the DNRM framework. Several of Brocade's customers are particularly interested in the ability to allocate virtual appliances for dev/test networks and physical systems for production traffic, without changing any code. Others focus on the way it supports resources from multiple vendors, or the ability to choose specific resources to meet compliance requirements.
Inevitably such a comprehensive mechanism as DNRM overlaps several projects within Neutron, including the FWaaS, LBaaS, and VPNaaS work. In recent weeks we’ve been meeting with many of the other contributors to OpenStack to thrash out the details of what a final architecture should look like. I’m looking forward to the Design Summit sessions in Hong Kong, which should lead to agreement on a program of work for the next Icehouse release of OpenStack. It’s going to be complicated, for the reasons that I already mentioned, but I think this increasing complexity emphasizes the need to provide cloud operators with policy-based automation tools.
And when I get back from Hong Kong on the 10th, I'll see which of those sporting events I still want to watch!
As I prepare for the OpenStack Hong Kong summit at the heels of Brocade's OpenStack announcements, I ponder what would be a good topic to discuss here. I have been involved with open innovations for several years and one key topic of discussion that comes up is: What is the best way to deliver open technologies to end customers. Should vendors focus on just enabling their platforms to work with open technologies or should they focus on only working on community software and driving innovations there or should they focus on just enabling the partner ecosystem and getting their platforms certified by partners.
Here in Vegas for the VMware Partner Exchange event taking place this week, Feb 12-16th, this quote from Curtis Sahakian could not be more fitting. Whether it’s your luck at the poker table, or all the exercise you get walking around the convention center, or the opportunity to network amongst partners at this event – hopefully this motto rings some truth for you.
So let’s work together to increase your profitability and differentiate the value you provide to customers by including Brocade networking solutions, the best networking products for virtualization and cloud. Visit us at Brocade Booth #208 to learn about our compelling joint solutions that have been tested and validated with VMware:
In a recent VMware press release, CEO of VMware Paul Maritz says “Cloud computing represents the next major era of computing – and it offers major opportunities to simplify and enhance IT. Now is the time to harness the benefits of cloud computing to enhance IT’s ability to support mission goals and enable government to do more with less. And by beginning the cloud journey with virtualization, agencies can drive significant cost, agility and security benefits." Although Mr. Maritz is evangelizing the benefits of Cloud Computing (Private, Public and Hybrid Clouds) in the context of Government customers, IMHO, the benefits apply to other Businesses and Enterprises as well. Virtualization as a core technology enabling Cloud Computing is a disruptive technology and has brought down cost of solving problems of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.
Business continuity and 24x7 application availability are top requirements for any organization. Advances in virtualization, storage, and networking have made enhanced business continuity possible, so that IT can deal with unplanned outages (disaster recovery) as well as with planned disruptions (disaster avoidance) and eventually take advantage of the flexibility and cost efficiencies offered in the cloud. The disruptive virtualization technologies and products from VMware in working with partners such as EMC and Brocade are bringing down the cost of deploying business continuity solutions.
Brocade, EMC, and VMware have collaborated to test and validate a solution that offers IT Operations the capability to dynamically migrate applications live across data centers without business interruption. This demonstration of live application mobility across data centers separated by a latency of up to 10 ms round trip (~550 miles) relies on the industry-proven VMware® Metro vMotion™, with the EMC VPLEX Metro application mobility solution, running on Brocade® IP and storage networking infrastructure for high performance traffic management and DC interconnect. The workflow is automated by the Brocade Application Resource Broker to ensure a non-disruptive end-user experience throughout the vMotion event.
Building the right storage and network infrastructure to enable data and application mobility requires a data center infrastructure that can provide both optimal storage extension capabilities as well as advanced network functionality end-to-end. It is imperative that a complete, comprehensive solution comprising storage, network, and server infrastructure be designed and implemented to facilitate the movement of applications across data centers. These products from Brocade, EMC, and VMware have been validated in the joint solution:
The solution comprises of four distinct areas of technology integrations. The solution is architected as;
SPECjbb emulates a 3-tier system, the most common type of server-side Java application today. Business logic and object manipulation, the work of the middle tier, predominate; clients are replaced by user threads, and database storage by Java collections. The benchmark steps through increasing amounts of work, providing a graphical view of scalability. The benchmark is a CLI oriented benchmark used to stress the migration network and migration process within the vSphere servers.
SwingBench is a load generator used to stress test the network IP management between data centers. The benchmark is primarily used to stress the working of the Application Resource Broker (ARB) and the Application Delivery Controller (ADX) of IP traffic management between data centers. As you can see from the graph below, there is no appreciable effect on the benchmark during the migration.
DVD Store Application Mobility Testing
This set of tests measured the orders per minute (OPM) for the DVD store application with different simulated WAN delay values. The VM was configured to move from the primary data center to the remote data center while clients were accessing the application. Delays of 3 and 5 ms were introduced and OPM was measured at 19,500 and 18,500, respectively. The 5 ms round trip time (RTT) was introduced to emulate latency between the two data centers, which is the currently supported value for VPLEX Metro.
Additional proof of concept tests were performed to go beyond the 5 ms value with an RTT of 7.5 ms and 10 ms; the results showed 16,500 OPM and 13,869 OPM, respectively, with no application disruption. The latency of 10 ms approximately translates into 1000 kilometers between the vSphere servers. With the assumption that the data center LAN network has 500 ms latency within the data center, it is then safe to assume a latency of 9 ms or a distance of 900 kilometers or 562.5 miles between data centers.
The VM was able to complete the full migration without any traffic disruption. Clients connected to the application did not see any interruption. The Brocade ADX redirected client sessions to the new VM in the remote data centers. The ADX, with the global server load balancing and ARB capabilities, ensured that new clients were able to transparently connect directly to the remote data center.
Measurements Performance Data
The Brocade FastWrite feature is designed to overcome the latency effects for write operations, without compromising data integrity and security. FastWrite allows the entire data sequence of a write operation to be transported across a link, without the inefficiencies of waiting for the “transfer ready” to travel back across the high-latency environment. Brocade FastWrite is available with either FC-based or FCIP extension.
In addition to the tests for application performance and migration time, additional tests were performed to show the positive effects of the Brocade FastWrite capability available on the DCX backbone directors. Sequential write operations at different block sizes and different delay values between the two data centers were performed using IOmeter. Tests results showed that response time and IOPS were improved more than 2.5 times compared to not using FastWrite.
Remember to watch the video demo of above solution at Brocade booth #710 in VMworld 2011 and discuss about the solution in-depth with our solution engineers.
I would like to thank Ravindra Neelkant of VMware for helping folks at Brocade in architecting and testing this solution.
Enjoy your time at VMworld 2011 and Vegas !!!
Brocade is the acknowledged leader in Fibre Channel SAN storage networks for block storage. But, much of the growth in storage today is in file storage, or what is commonly known as NAS (Network Attached Storage). NAS storage offers a robust, scale-out, high performance storage layer that simplifies storage management. However, the underlying network infrastructure for NAS storage has to be designed with the highest levels of resiliency, availability and performance. A lossless Ethernet transport can improve performance when network congestion occurs. TCP relies on the TCP sliding window for flow control. But, if congestion causes frame loss, then TCP recovery can severely restrict bandwidth as thetransmit window size shrinks and then slowly increases again. Enter Brocade’sVCS Fabric technology and VDX switch family (VDX 6710, VDX 6720, VDX 6730and the newest VDX 8770 switch). By handling congestion at layer 2 with lossless Ethernet, a VCS Fabric can avoid TCP frame loss and the time consuming recovery of full TCP transmit window size.
For the same reasons SAN fabrics are the best practice for high performance, resiliency and lossless block IO with Fibre Channel, VCS Fabrics bring these same qualities to Ethernet making a VCS Fabric ideal to transport NAS storage traffic.
The Strategic Solutions Lab recently posted several design guides and a Scale-out NAS primer showing how to cost-effectively use VCS Fabrics with NAS storage pools.
Wayne Tull, a Principal Systems Architect at Brocade, put together a very nice demonstration video showing how VCS Fabric resiliency overcomes link, path and device failures with NAS storage traffic and VMware server virtualization. What’s very cool in this video is seeing how virtual server IO to NAS storage never stops no matter what kind of failure occurs in the data path. Take a look at the last demonstration where he fails the primary IO path while a live VM migration is going on. There is no detectable pause in migration and no loss of application processing. Imagine what could have happened in a less robust network if this kind of failure caused a corruption to a database taking many hours to recover.
It’s been a bit quiet on the fabric front lately, what with all the hoopla around SDN. But there are different kinds of quiet. There’s “nothing going on” quiet. There’s “lots of secret stuff going on” quiet. And there’s “just busy getting stuff done” quiet. With ourannouncement today, it should be pretty clear that as far as our customers are concerned, it’s the last one.
This isn’t dramatic “I’ve redone my entire data center!” stuff. That’s kind of the point, in fact. Fabrics don’t represent a grand departure from current norms in terms of skill sets, org charts, or other exciting and scary career-changing things. They just make life for operators a lot easier, and their networks a lot more flexible...Read more...
It is funny how there’s a misperception in the market that Fibre Channel networks are complex and hard to manage. Certainly admins need different skills than a standard LAN admin, but most customers spend a fraction of the time and resources managing a SAN vs. managing a LAN.
For Brocade Fibre Channel fabrics, the Fabric Operating System (FOS) has provided a variety of features and tools to help isolate, mitigate, and overcome performance and availability issues. Over time, Brocade engineering has added new features and enhanced functionality to make the life of a SAN administrator easier with features like Fabric Watch, Advanced Performance Monitor, Bottleneck Detection, and more.
The introduction of Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel technology in 2011 provided a new ASIC platform that enabled fundamental changes in fabric management. As an example, ClearLink Diagnostics was introduced as the industry’s only built-in cable and optics diagnostics capability that eliminated the need for specialized tools and drastically reduced troubleshooting time.
Today Brocade and HP announced the availability of two breakthrough monitoring and diagnostic capabilities for Brocade Fibre Channel fabrics—Monitoring and Alerting Policy Suite (MAPS) and Flow Vision. Part of Brocade Fabric Vision technology, MAPS and Flow Vision dramatically simplify SAN administration tasks and enable even higher availability and performance for Brocade SAN fabrics.
So what are MAPS and Flow Vision and how do they simplify life for SAN administrators?
MAPS is a threshold-based monitoring and alerting solution that enables proactive SAN management. MAPS leverages Brocade’s more than 15 years’ experience and expertise in storage networking to provide administrators pre-built rules/actions and pre-packaged monitoring policies so that admins can simply select the pre-defined policy that’s right for their environment and enable it.
In addition, administrators can use Brocade Network Advisor to further simplify the deployment of common policies across multiple switches, entire fabrics, or even multiple fabrics. With MAPS, deploying a fabric-wide monitoring and alerting solution is fast, easy, and requires no in-depth SAN expertise.
Flow Vision simplifies SAN administration and eliminates the need for intrusive external tools that compromise fabric reliability and add excessive costs. Rather than spending days trying to identify and isolate the root cause of a performance issue, Flow Vision can automatically discover data flows and non-disruptively monitor flows of interest. Comprehensive statistics about specific flows or frame types provide valuable insight into resolving performance and availability issues.
All of this can be done on any port and at any time in a Brocade Fibre Channel fabric without the need to disrupt the fabric to install expensive network taps or external analyzers. Flow Vision provides broad visibility and insight across the storage network (including storage, host, and E_ports) and allows administrators to monitor any flow in the fabric. Using Flow Vision means faster troubleshooting, optimized resources, and higher availability.
The introduction of these new Fabric Vision technology capabilities are part of what differentiates Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel technology from simple 16 Gbps switches. Our engineering resources are busy developing technology and capabilities that simplify the life of a SAN admin and add value in the data center through increased availability and optimized performance. To find out more about Brocade Fabric Vision technology, check out the Fabric Vision page.
Nowadays, a main topic in the area of data center is Network Virtualization, and VMworld 2013 is no exception. Enterprise businesses and Service Providers having tasted the benefits of virtualizing server and to some extent storage are looking for leveraging virtualizing network to make their data center operations cost less and resource utilization more efficient.
Challenge is getting to that “Nirvana”. This shift, especially to Network Virtualization need to be more of an evolutionary than revolutionary change. Here is where “Brocade VCS Gateway for NSX” comes into the picture. While Data centers are trying to virtualize their business critical applications in terms of compute, storage and network, some of the application components such as database server and storage remain non-virtualized. Even if they virtualize some of these components, they end up remaining on physical network. This “Evolutionary approach to application virtualization” is one such use case for the “Brocade VCS Gateway for NSX”.
Another use case is application life cycle where there is need to deploy application in a “Test & Dev Environment” to “Production Environment”. Virtualization technologies together with agile methodologies helps to reduce “time to market” the IT services as business and market requirements change. But, this also brings deployment issues to IT when application life cycle shifts from “Test & Dev” to Production where some of these application components are using physical resources. As the networking configuration such as IP address and VLAN change and deviates from tested configuration, possibility of application failure is high. This is where one could use “Brocade VCS Gateway for NSX” to keep the tested network configuration, but still deploy application where some of the components are based on physical infrastructure.
You can find more about bridging Virtual and Physical networks in this very well written blog. You can get more information about “Brocade VCS Gateway for NSX” by attending the session “Advanced Network Designs for Data Center Transformation” (#NET6091).by Jon Hudson, Principal Engineer at Brocade.
Enjoy VMworld at Barcelona !!!
Next week is the OpenStack summit in San Diego, CA, and Brocade will be there with a pilot to show how we are integrating OpenStack into our management architecture. Brocade's endorsement of OpenStack goes back to a year ago, when during the Brocade Tech Day in May 2011, we announced our participation to the OpenStack alliance. Since that date, we, as a networking company, are working on enabling our product portfolio to be best optimized for OpenStack. The following is a summary of our direction.
This week, Brocade hosted Steve Foskett from Gestalt IT and his merry band for Networking Field Day #4. Jeff Rametta of the Strategic Solutions Lab (SSL) did a very nice demonstration of how VCS Fabric technology has been integrated with the OpenStack management platform. He shows how to completely automate provisioning of applications, virtual machines, storage, network and network polices using Brocade's VMware Automated Migration of Port Profiles AMPP, part of VCS Fabric technology, and the OpenStack API. In this example, an application familiar to all attendees, WordPress, is deployed in just a few minutes using VMware virtual switch policies to seamlessly create the same policies on all switches in the VCS Fabric.
Here is the link to Jeff's demonstration.
"Wow" was one of the comments, and deservedly so.
Jeff and the rest of the team at SSL also regularly contribute content to the Strategic Solutions Forum where you can get more information about reference architectures, design guides, deployment guides and validation tests. Drop by and take a look around. Feel free to make comments and ask questions.
There were other informative Brocade presentations at NFD4 and you can find them on this page. The updates included the innovative Brocade HyperEdge "mix and match" stacking technology used in the campus ICX platform, an update on the newest VDX switch, the VDX 8770 chassis switch with 10GbE and 40 GbE speed,
Note: One analyst called the Brocade VDX 8770 a "beast of a switch". Another said, "Compared with Cisco Nexus and Juniper QFabric, the VDX 8770 is a leader in latency, speed and densit...". And yet another said "Brocade delivers on the promise of delivering large-scale Ethernet fabric solutions."
and an in-depth discussion of where OpenFlow integration is going (our ADX application delivery switch) and why that's innovative (the long tail market opportunities).
At VMworld San Francisco back in August, we showcased the Brocade SAN Analytic Management Pack for vCenter Operations Manager (vCOps). This pack effectively fills in a longtime gap in the VMware management suite of virtual infrastructure. In this video, analyst Zeus Kerravala gives his thoughts on the solution.
VCenter Operations Manager provides a unified view into the health, risk, and efficiency of the virtual infrastructure and the health of applications to help improve quality of service and provide early detection of performance, capacity, and configuration issues. Visibility into infrastructure components such as server, storage, application, etc are provided through the vCOPs solution and corresponding vCOps management packs that brings monitoring of these components into vCOps fold. But the SAN was always a "black box" as there was no visibility when the virtualization administrator needed SAN monitoring, until now.
The Brocade SAN Analytic Management Pack provides SAN visibility within vCOps by leveraging not only the latter’s adaptive capabilities for amplifying signals and dampening noise, but also draws on two other pieces of Brocade SAN technology to provide actionable visibility of SAN-based performance inhibitors.
For example, a not-uncommon SAN problem which often evades troubleshooting is the "slow-draining device". A good description can be found in this blog, but effectively, multiple SAN zones may be passing traffic into a single port or link to a LUN, causing congestion and latency. The ripple effect of this condition can be disastrous. Indeed, all VMs that are connected through these zones to the slow-draining device can see their performance decreased to the point that the guest application becomes ineffective.
Brocade Fabric Vision technology, a feature of Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel, proactively monitors all ports within a fabric for performance degradation, congestion and bottlenecks and then synthesizes the information within a fabric-wide view. Information about growing hotspots is then fed to the Brocade SAN Analytic Management Pack to allow the VM administrator to understand how SAN issues may be affecting certain areas of their virtual infrastructure. If changes are warranted, they can be made in Brocade’s network management tool, Brocade Network Advisor, and then easily pushed out across the SAN for remediation.
We’ll have this solution on display again in the Brocade booth P202 at VMworld in Barcelona. The solution can also be found on the VMware Solution Exchange. In addition, Didier Stolpe will giving a deep dive session, Health, Risk and Efficiency Assessment of SAN Infrastructure with vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPS) (STO 6123), on Tuesday, 15. October at 17:00. Please stop by if you’re in Barcelona.
With our announcement of new and upcoming VCS releases on 9/18, we talked quite a bit about multitenancy and general fabric manageability and orchestration. One interesting new feature that didn't get a lot of attention at the time is AutoQoS for NAS. VCS fabrics have a strong following among storage administrators who like the familiar Brocade resilience, losslessness and automation for their storage networks--just as important for IP storage as for FC storage.
I invited my colleague Dave Phillips, Director of Product Management, to give you some further context on how and why VCS fabrics are used in IP storage environments, and why we introduced the AutoQoS feature.
Several important industry trends such as virtualization, cloud computing, hyper growth of unstructured data and business analytics are affecting existing data center enviornments.
As a result of this phenomenal growth in data, corporations are experiencing new requirements for their underlying Data Center infrastructure, primarily enhancements to their network and storage architectures. They need to...
So how do IT organizations keep up with the constant demand of the business and improve quality of service, while battling tighter operating budgets?
IBM and Brocade have partnered to deliver an open architecture based on the industry leading IBM’s Flex System combined with Brocade’s VCS Ethernet Fabric technology (the EN4023 10Gb Scalable Switch Module) and IBM NAS storage products…SONAS, Storewise v7000 Unified, and the N series (N3000, 6000, 7000).
The IBM Flex with its high density packaging, allows more servers and switching components into less space, sharing many common components, greatly reducing cabling and optic cost and provides integrated solutions that:
Now let us look at how the IBM EN4023 with Brocade VCS Fabric technology embedded in the IBM Flex Chassis can help you build a more efficient Data Center.
Compared to the traditional 3 tier networking architecture, VCS Fabrics increase network efficiency, simplify the network architecture, and reduce the time for adding network capacity.
The three-tier legacy architecture induces significant inefficiency in the network and hinders application performance due to increased latency between the multiple tiers. Another issue is that adding additional compute and network capacity on demand is not possible. You may have to re-architect your network for maintaining the same performance bandwidth (e.g. oversubscription ratio) between the network tiers. These changes require significant manual intervention to simply add additional switching capacity and trunk bandwidth.
IBM Flex with the Brocade VCS Fabric alleviates these issues.
Brocade VCS Fabric greatly simplifies the network architecture by collapsing multiple tiers into a flat architecture. All the switches are connected via active-active links and using intelligent multi-pathing capabilities. The end result is a network that is ideal for heavy East West server traffic and providing lower latency, predictable performance and very fast application response time. Net-Net VCS Fabrics increase the efficiency of your network by 2x compared to traditional networks.
VCS Fabrics also offer unprecedented automation in setting up and managing a highly virtualized scale out network. The VCS Fabric provides a single point of management for all the switches in the Fabric so that you can provision, monitor and troubleshoot your entire Ethernet fabric from a single point within the Fabric.
With VCS Fabrics, supporting VM’s on the network is seamless and automated using Automatic Migration of Port Profiles (AMPP) and integration with VM Ware vCenter offering zero-touch VM discovery, configuration, and mobility.
Another unique feature of VCS Fabrics is the self forming trunks which significantly reduces manual labor, planned downtime and human error by eliminating any CLI commands for configuring the trunks and adding switches in the network. This helps you to deploy additional network capacity 5x faster than the competition.
Figure 1 – VCS Fabric Optimized for Scale out deployments
VCS Fabrics offers the industry’s most advanced capability for adding capacity non-disruptively to the network. Innovations like Auto-QoS for NAS traffic, VM Aware network automation, auto configuration of ISL trunks and fabric formation truly offer unprecedented automation and flexibility for supporting scale out storage designs. Combined with the inherent scalability capabilities of IBM Flex System and NAS storage, the EN4023 10/40Gb Scalable Switch module and its VCS Fabric capabilities provide IT departments an elastic server, network, storage infrastructure that addresses the business challenges for on-demand capacity growth and fast application delivery.Existing VCS customers have realized over 50% TCO savings for network alone. Check out the TCO tool...
At VMworld Barcelona, Brocade will showcase cool solutions to help customers tap the benefits of new data center technologies. Brocade will use an innovative display approach where virtual individuals interactive with their live counterparts to demonstrate the benefits that can be realized when virtual and physical resources are utilized together.
One of the Brocade Booth Presentations – the Virtual Amanda in the Virtual/Physical Infinite Game
At the Brocade booth, you can also see how the Brocade VCS Gateway for NSX can help you move smoothly to the new Data Center by allowing workloads to utilize resources running on virtual and physical networks.
At this event, Cloud Management will be a big topic. Cloud Management allows organizations to drive greater automation and management leading to higher efficiency. Brocade has been collaborating with VMware on a SAN Analytics Management Pack for vCenter Operations Management and a Content Pack for Log Insight. Participants can see how to simplify SAN operations management with Brocade Management Pack at the Brocade booth.
For participants preferring a more hands-on experience, you can build your own Data Center network in 5 minutes. If you are longing to bust your application out of your private data center into a public cloud, check out how you can use the Vyatta vRouter to connect to public cloud services easily and securely.
Participants seeking to gain an in-depth knowledge of Brocade Data Center Networking for Data Transformation using NSX should join Jon Hudson’s breakout session #NET6091.
To learn how to perform Health, Risk and Efficiency Assessment of SAN Infrastructure with vCenter Operations Management Suite, Didier Stople’s session #STO6123 is a smart choice.
So, whether you feel optimal with physical or partial to virtual or simply game to learn more about software-defined networking (SDN) for the new data center - Booth P202 is the place to converge - to find the virtual / physical balance that is just right for your data center requirements.
Ok, now to start getting into the meat behind the On-Demand Data Center. Over the course of this series I am going to break down several of the challenges which data center operators continually tell us keep them up at night. And then, more importantly, describe the validated real-world solutions that can make them rest a little easier. So what challenge are we looking at today? How about one caused by server virtualization?
“Wait, but, I thought server virtualization was supposed to solve my problems, not be the cause? It’s the building block of the cloud!”
Yes, sure it is. Virtualization is great. It increases resource utilization, improves efficiency, reduces provisioning time… yadda yadda yadda…you have your cloud. But if Seinfeld taught me anything it’s that there’s a lot that can happen in the yadda. In particular, there are several challenges that server virtualization places on your data center network. The focus of this entry will be how to deal with the massive increase in east-west traffic that it is causing. So today, let’s go east-west, young man (or woman).
The traditional access/aggregation/core topologies have been around for a long time and are widely implemented in data centers everywhere. However, with the rise in east-west traffic (~80% of traffic will be east-west by 20141, and about half of that is going across VLAN boundaries), the current model does not efficiently manage server to server routing. Due to P2V migration, VMs are being increasingly spun up, consolidating the amount of physical servers (~82% of server workloads will run in virtual environments in 20162). This presents an opportunity to significantly reduce core bound traffic that was being routed within the data center to other servers or in some cases to the same server! The additional hops needed for a VM to communicate with another VM in a different subnet can be greatly reduced by adding a router into the virtual environment with the VMs.
Let’s take a look at an example. The diagram below shows the traditional traffic pattern used for routing between VMs. The green flow would be greatly enhanced with a virtual routing solution allowing intra-server routing, eliminating hops and reducing latency caused by sending the traffic to the core.
Now let’s say the traffic needs to cross server boundaries. To fully optimize the traffic in this case, you will want to have a very efficient ToR solution with full Layer 1 multi-pathing capabilities because you are doing the routing within the server layer. In the below diagram you can see both intra-server traffic flow with virtual routing (red) and inter-server traffic flow with virtual routing and multi-pathing at the ToR (blue).
Brocade is the only vendor that can deliver this complete solution for your data center today. The Vyatta vRouter delivers dynamic routing, Policy-Based Routing (PBR), stateful firewall, VPN support, and traffic management in a single package that is optimized to perform in virtualized environments. The Brocade VDX Series with VCS Fabric Technology supports 100% multi-pathing at all layers of the network: Layer 1, Layer 2, and Layer 3. Layer 1 multi-pathing is achieved via Brocade ISL Trunking, providing the industry’s best load balancing across a trunk group. By leveraging these technologies, we were able to reduce core bound traffic by 40%.
Oh, just last week we announced even more advancements for these solutions in support of the On-Demand Data Center. Check it out!
Next entry we will stay on the virtualization theme, but look at ways to deal with congestion that it causes on the rest of the network, specifically in the core and aggregation.
1 Gartner—Your Data Center Network is Heading Toward Traffic Chaos (April 2011)
2Gartner Forecast Analysis: x86 Server Virtualization, Worldwide, 3Q12 Update (November 2012)
The amount of traffic that crosses the data center continues to grow, as does the need for speed and capacity. If your data center network seems sluggish and is not providing the response time your organization requires, it could be your data center network infrastructure is causing the issue. It might be time to consider upgrading to higher capacity speeds all tiers of your network – leaf, spine and core.
Let’s start at the leaf layer. Server virtualization, while decreasing the overall number of servers, is increasing the number of overall servers per rack as well as the number of virtual machines (VM). Organizations will require higher bandwidth to address this growing server and network utilization. Today's one Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) switches are not able to provide the bandwidth and low latency needed to prevent bottlenecks and sluggish response times. If you haven’t already, now is a good time upgrade to 10 GbE based switches for several reasons. With a virtualized data center, you will need 10 GbE to manage the increased capacity on the servers. Nowadays, servers are shipping with 10 GbE connectors, thus having a 10 GbE switch will help with performance and latency issues at the edge. In addition, 10 GbE switches are no longer cost prohibitive. The price gap between one GbE and 10 GbE is narrowing. When you also factor power consumption and cooling older systems as well as performance costs, 10 GB starts to look a lot more affordable...Read more...
We’ve been pretty busy over here in Brocade DataCenterland for the past few months.
Back in late July, we released NOS 4.0, which is the operating system for the Brocade VDX Switches and which delivers VCS Fabric technology. The 4.0 release provided several scale enhancements, including official support for 32 nodes in a fabric. But the real focus of the 4.0 release was manageability. This release brought the ability to define and push both global and local configurations from a logically centralized point. I’ve written a little bit about how the Logical Chassis principal switch concept works here, but I’d encourage you to read through the whitepaper to learn more about how global and local configuration and monitoring can be automated through the Logical Chassis. Add this to the OpenStack Plug-In we pushed last April, and you begin to see how VCS fabrics truly simplify the management of network operations in cloud data centers. (By the way, there’s a video demo of the OpenStack plug-in here for the curious.)
Then last month, we began shipping the Brocade VDX 6740 Switches, which provide 40G uplinks in 1RU ToR switches. The VDX 6740 packs up to 64 1/10G SFP+ ports into that space and the VDX 6740-T provides 48 1/10G Base-T ports. Our Ports on Demand licensing makes it easy to grow into these switches.
For VMware shops, NOS 4.0 brought multi-vCenter support and ESX discovery via LLDP. And if you were at VMworld San Francisco, you may have seen us demonstrate the Brocade VCS Gateway for VMware NSX. If not, you can see it here. The VDX 8770 and 6740 can monitor overlay traffic (any protocol, not just VXLAN) as it flows across them; the VDX 6740 supports virtual-to-physical workload translation at the edge. This is one of several enhancements we’re making in NOS 4.0 and 4.1 (GA’ing this winter) to enable networks to support multi-tenant architectures much more simply and efficiently.
In addition to support for overlay networks, VCS fabrics also support traditional Layer 3 segmentation with VRF-Lite, and a native Layer 2 technique—the VCS Virtual Fabric feature. Using 24-bit TRILL Fine-Grained Label encapsulation, VCS Virtual Fabrics address the need to support overlapping VLANs for large numbers of tenants, and to scale beyond the traditional 4096 VLAN limit. I’ll delve more into the VCS Virtual Fabric feature in my next blog, but you may want to familiarize yourself with the basics as described in this whitepaper. With server-based segmentation and services delivered by the Vyatta vRouter, Layer 2 and 3 segmentation options in the fabric tier, and highly scalable Layer 3 multi-tenancy delivered on the MLXe, Brocade offers an array of options for designing an end-to-end multi-tenant data center architecture.
Let me know if you have questions!
We find ourselves at a tipping point for a new data center network. Demands on the modern data center have completely outpaced innovation on the network. Just like with anything nowadays, (movies on Netflix, music on Spotify, rides on Uber,burgers from McDonalds) it’s all about on-demand. It is now time for the ability to flexibly deploy data center capacity – compute, networking, storage and services - in real-time, whenever and wherever you need it.
In April of this year, Brocade unveiled its vision for the On-Demand Data Center to meet this need. This blueprint addresses the technology and business imperatives we hear most frequently from data center operators: virtualization, multi-tenancy, return on investments, and cost savings.
Today we embark on a series of blogs that will show how this is not just a vision. You can achieve results from your data center network today. Over the course of this series I will take you into our laboratory and show you how you can:
Emerging and exciting technologies like SDN, NFV, and Ethernet fabrics will be covered, but only in ways that can be deployed today. This is not a 12-18 month roadmap. These are validated solutions through test cases, which comprise the On-Demand Data Center shown in the network diagram below.
In the next blog, I will focus on the effects that virtualization has had on the data center network. Then, through test cases, you can see how to optimize east-west traffic flows, increase automation and elasticity of workloads, and reduce congestion caused by virtualization through efficient network designs.
Fibre Channel remains the de facto standard for high performance disk-based arrays as well as emerging flash-based arrays. It offers the best combination of performance, scalability, and reliability of the mainstream protocols. Now that Cisco MDS has finally joined the Gen 5 Fibre Channel party, customers have a choice.
Often overlooked in comparing Brocade and Cisco is the basic Fibre Channel switching architecture: Brocade uses cut-through switching and Cisco uses store-and-forward switching. The switching architecture has a profound impact on latency, which in turn impacts overall performance.
Cut-through switching technology is the lowest latency method for forwarding frames. It’s ideal for storage due to the latency sensitivity of SCSI and the impact on IOPS performance. Fibre Channel frames are forwarded to the destination before the entire frame has been received. Corrupted frames are identified and marked in the switch and discarded at the destination device. Discarding corrupted frames at the destination device minimizes the time to recover bad frames. As soon as the destination device receives the EOF marker as "invalid", recovery of the corrupted frame begins immediately...Read more...
Brocade launched the Brocade VCS Gateway for NSX at VMworld this week. For those who are considering NSX, here are 5 resources that will help you see why Brad Hedlund said, “Brocade VCS is awesome” and “cool”.
First, take a look at this cool demo. This demo illustrates how you can unite the physical with the virtual by using the Brocade VCS Gateway to bridge a client and application server on the virtual network to a database server and image library on a NAS storage on the physical network.
Second, take a look at the joint Brocade VMware solution brief for an overview of the benefits and components of the solution.
In the opening keynote, when asked to give one key takeaway about using NSX, one of the guests, Greg Lavender, CTO for Cloud Architectures at Citi provided the following comments: “look at the application workloads“; “provide your physical infrastructure ... so that physical and virtual can support each other”; “carefully plan the manageability”; and how “you leverage the virtual overlay to connect the virtual compute and the virtual volume.”.
So third, for a baseline on what Greg is referring to, read Sandeep Singh Kohli’s blog, “Network Virtualization in Data Centers: When the rubber meets the road!” This looks at the characteristics of workloads in the data center, the role of the gateway when customers introduce an NSX controller and the benefits they can derived when utilizing Brocade VCS Technology with the overlay network.
Fourth, for a business perspective, take a look at this video with Hatem Naguib, VMware VP of Networking and Security. Hatem covers the benefits of the solution to customers and the partnership between Brocade and VMware.
Fifth, check this out – a VMworld TV Exclusive video that gives you a peek of the passion in the team at Brocade that brought you the VCS gateway for NSX.
Finally, check out the session by Chip Copper and Deepak Patil when this is published by the VMworld organizers. It is entitled: “Advanced Network Designs for Data Center Transformation” (NET6091). This provides a great blueprint on the needs for a modern network and illustrates how Brocade’s data center networking is such a powerful enabler for customers seeking to derive the benefits of the On-Demand or Software-Defined Data Center.
There are a lot of really neat things going on at VMworld this year, and you can find some of them at the Brocade booth (#1513) and speaking sessions. One in particular I want to highlight is the Brocade session discussing how to leverage VMware vCenter Operations Manager (vCOps) to provide a comprehensive Virtual Infrastructure view comprising of, for the very first time, the SAN domain. The session is presented by Chip Copper and Didier Stolpe, and is being held on Wednesday, Aug 28, from 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM in Moscone West, Room 3018. So with those logistical details settled, what's going on in the session itself?
The data center is becoming more and more virtualized, and fibre channel SAN provides the high performance foundation for these environments. As we all know, when it comes to SAN, business continuity is paramount. As organizations connect their FC SAN to virtualized servers, they need to do so in a manner that provides visibility into the SAN for troubleshooting and monitoring from VMware management solutions, exposing a single pane a glass and consistent user experience across the compute/network/storage infrastructure...Read more...
As customers start deploying network virtualization solutions using Overlay technology in production environments, it becomes apparent that they need a gateway solution to connect their virtual workloads to the physical infrastructure in their data centers. Brocade worked in collaboration with VMware to develop the Brocade VCS gateway for NSX to help our customers do just that. Based on what we announced about the gateway, I want to achieve two things in this write-up - plain and simple. 1> Help articulate how VCS Gateway for NSX helps you seamlessly transition to a virtualized infrastructure while continuing to leverage your physical IT resources and 2> more broadly touch upon why a highly resilient, automated and efficient “underlay” networking infrastructure is needed to improve the predictability of your Overlay network solution and reduce complexity.
Let’s tackle the first point. A typical data-center has several hardware resources running physical workloads. This could include bare metal servers running non-virtualized or mission-critical applications and databases, physical storage devices and specialized hardware running network services. In fact, although it sounds counter-intuitive, most host servers run physical workloads even though there are more virtualized workloads but this point is perhaps a topic for another blog. So, getting back to our topic, how do we connect the new virtualized infrastructure you are building with your physical resources? We need something that terminates the VXLAN tunnels and sends that traffic to the physical resources, since the physical devices are not VXLAN aware. This is where the Brocade VCS gateway comes in. The gateway translates your virtual VXLAN tunnels connections to VLAN towards Physical destination points.
So that’s the fundamental function of a gateway in the simplest terms. The VCS Gateway, powered by VCS fabric technology, offers enhanced functionality with features like Logical Chassis, allowing multiple Brocade VDX switches within a fabric to be connected as one logical switch. The single logical interface into the fabric delivers operational simplicity because the NSX controller sees multiple gateways as one logical chassis. Furthermore, because the gateway is built on VCS fabric technology with load-balanced multipathing at Layer 1 and 2, the gateway is highly resilient to support mission-critical deployments. These resiliency and simplicity benefits are standout differentiators for the VCS gateway in addition to the scale and performance benefits that hardware gateways provide.
Moving on to the second point on why in general you need a resilient networking infrastructure as an underlay for your overlay. One important point that comes up while talking to customers about Overlay technology is the uncertainty regarding the predictability of the solution (performance and availability). One way to look at the predictability of an overlay solution is to look at the risk of the solution;
Total risk =
Risk due to the predictability of the overlay software +
Risk due to the predictability of the hardware network underlay +
Risk due to the predictability of the interdependence between underlay hardware and overlay software.
You need to ensure that the risk for each of the three parts is as low as possible. Therefore, to increase the predictability and reduce the risk of an overlay solution, you need a robust underlay such as the one delivered through highly resilient fabric of switches based on VCS fabric technology that deliver industry’s best performance and availability. This also reduces the risk due to the predictability of interdependence between the underlay and overlay. In addition, if the physical network is complex to deploy and maintain, it creates a significant operational burden and expense which should be minimized. VCS fabric technology provides the automation and efficiency that minimizes the complexity and is a critical foundation for your infrastructure.
Lastly, won’t it be just incredible when your underlay VCS network also acts as a gateway? Since the gateway functionality is built on the VCS Fabric technology, if you have the VCS fabric as your underlay network, you won’t need a separate, dedicated gateway to do your VXLAN to VLAN conversion when the gateway functionality is enabled across the fabric. This leads to maximum utilization of your networking resources and lowers your total cost.
In general, there is lot of excitement about the choice Brocade provides to customers which includes this support of Overlay based NV solutions. And with the gateway solution, Brocade is enabling its customers to seamlessly transition to cloud architectures while leveraging and maximizing theinvestment of their physical resources. This is a disruptive time we live in, but Brocade is laser focused on helping customers along a smooth, non-disruptive journey to the cloud.
To learn more, please visit the VMworld Brocade booth (#1513) at the Moscone Convention Center for demos on Brocade VCS Gateway for VMware NSX with an EMC storage VNX series. In addition, technical experts will discuss the gateway at a session titled “Advanced Network Designs for Data Center Transformation” today at 5:00 pm in Moscone West Room 2014.
More information on the VCS gateway with VMware: http://www.brocade.com/partnerships/technology-all
Good introduction to the gateway technology: http://networkheresy.com/2013/08/15/network-virtua
The movie Top Gun with Tom Cruise made this line short hand for high performance with no compromise.
As proof of the need for speed in Ethernet networks, the IEEE announced this week that they have started a new group, “IEEE 802.3 Industry Connections Higher Speed Ethernet Consensus Group” to begin work on physical standards that will support 400 GbE and 1 TbE with a target of 2015, as reported in EE Times.
There are many reasons for this, notably, the growth in smart phones, on-line video access, data analytics (aka, Big Data), sensors networks, real-time network telemetry and analytics for public clouds, high-performance computing and science research activities such as genomics, proteomics, climate modeling and particle physics. This has lead to network bandwidth doubling every 18 months – is that an echo of Moore’s Law I hear?
One of Brocades customers, CERN, operates the Large Hadron Collider (LEC), and recently announced strong evidence of having found the last particle that completes the Standard Model of particle physics, the Higgs Boson. The media affectionately calls this the “God Particle”, but it’s the particle responsible for what we experience as mass, and this is a very significant discovery.
CERN’s experiments collect gigabytes of experimental data PER SECOND storing 15 PB per year. But, that’s just the beginning as subsequent analysis of raw experimental data generates many large data sets that are moved among the researchers who need access to it.
The Brocade MLXe Router with 100 GbE line cards is installed at CERN and directly supports the data collection from the experiments. It’s the Top Gun of networking at the top particle physics experiment ever constructed.
Brocade MLXe with 100 GbE Line Cards
If you feel a need for speed and want to see how well the MLXe performs with the 100 GbE line card, drop by the Strategic Solutions Lab forum. We just published a new Validation Test document that confirms our performance:
Photograph by Don Vu
It is time for VMworld. Once again, IT pains bring 20,000 professional back to San Francisco looking for answers. But with so many sessions and exhibitors and limited time, how does one find the answer? Well, try these steps.
First, ask - how can you increase efficiency in the current data center to drive additional value from the investment made? At the Brocade booth, you can start by taking matters into your own hand by building your own efficient data center network in 5 minutes.
Second, look. Central in today’s data centers are critical applications using storage connected mostly by SAN fabrics. Users of vCenter Operations Management Suite (vCOPS) should look at Brocade’sOperations Management demo to see how SAN Analytics for vCOPS can help improve operational efficiency in your data center.
Third, chat. You can chat to a Brocade expert in our Validated Solutions area about a range of proven solutions for private clouds which are easy to deploy and manage. Find out how Brocade provides you with the best-of-breed choices for validated solutions.
Fourth, move. Move pass the big roadblock at the gateway to the next gen data center - the lack of agility. The automated, multi-pathing and resiliency provide by the Brocade’s Virtual Cluster Switching technology make Brocade’s IP networking one of the most capable underlay networks for workloads mobility. If you are interested in Hybrid Clouds, you might look at the Brocade Vyatta vRouter and virtual ADC.
Fifth, unite – the critical step to the next gen data center. The concept of the next gen Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) uses networks to unite compute and storage resources. One of the three SDDC pillars is Software Defined Networking (SDN) which incorporates Network Virtualization. When virtual networks become numerous and complex when combined with policies, multi-tenancy and QoS – then the automation, scalability and resilience of the physical network becomes critical. At VMworld, you should come to the Network virtualization demo area to see these capabilities in action. See how Brocade technology unites compute and storage resources to support data center workloads running across physical and virtual environments.
So the picture is pretty clear. Whether you are looking for higher efficiency today, visibility into your data center fabrics or the ability to unite you physical and virtual resources for tomorrow – Booth 1513 is the place to go for the answer.
A data center divided cannot stand. So come and see how Brocade can help you unite the physical and virtual to realize the benefits of the next gen data center.
Lately I’ve found myself explaining a minor paradox fairly frequently, so I thought I’d capture it here for easy bookmarking.
Brocade VCS fabrics were designed with a distributed control plane as well as a logically centralized management construct. The former means all nodes are aware of each other and share information about their health and state, which enables a relatively high degree of autonomous operation of the fabric as a whole. On the other hand, eliminating per-device management is clearly advantageous in terms of streamlining both deployment and troubleshooting. The VCS control plane facilitates rapid and consistent policy distribution across the fabric.
Now for the paradox: VCS fabrics are designed to be masterless. This helps ensure resilience in the event of a node failure. Yet the simplicity of centralized management depends on there being a single point from which policy is defined and distributed. Some approaches achieve this via a separate controller and management network, which may present resilience concerns. In VCS Logical Chassis mode, a “principal switch” is assigned by the administrator, and the designation can be reassigned to a different node at any time.
However, this is not Darwinian, Roman Triumvirate-style primus inter pares; rather, the election process more closely resembles a Witenagemot, with a generally understood succession plan being ratified and implemented at need by peer nodes. Here’s how it works: the administrator decides the principal switch should have certain characteristics, for example, hardware HA, large scale, etc. (In fabrics containing VDX 8770s, those devices would be preferred as principal switch candidates. Fabrics with leaf-spine topologies would generally designate a spine switch.) The administrator then assigns the principal switch as well as priority of backup principals based on specific policy parameters. In the event of a principal switch failure, management automatically fails over to the designated successor switch to avoid disruption.
However, the “next of kin” succession can be altered, either by quickly moving down the line of succession if multiple nodes are affected, or by direct intervention by the administrator, for example because upgrades or policy changes affect the preferred type of switch. This flexibility to alter the fabric management scheme at need, generally but not strictly within the confines of a clear, predefined succession process, ensures that fabrics can be tuned and optimized organically without the massive disruption of a1066-type of event.
There are a number of other interesting aspects of the VCS Logical Chassis construct I haven't touched on here. Please take a look at the Logical Chassis whitepaper, which also goes over the details of zero-touch discovery, simplified firmware updates and other useful features.
Data center professionals heading for this year’s VMworld should perk up their ears for three noteworthy Brocade sessions.
First, Dr. Chip Copper, a Brocade Global Solution Architect, will be revealing about how SAN analytics can be used with VMware vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPS) for health, risk and efficiency assessment of SAN Infrastructure.
According to Gartner, “Client inquiries show that virtual server infrastructures are more latency sensitive than bandwidth sensitive. This has caused a migration to FC from file-based protocols, especially when there are a high number of virtual hosts per physical server.” This is note is underscored by the current Top 20 VMmark 2.0 benchmarks where FC SAN is the default for all network storage configurations.
If FC SAN is so important, why is there no FC SAN visibility in VMware’s most important operations management tool – vCOPS? Now imagine: what if you have better and deeper visibility of your FC SAN network? You could quickly identify the specific issue causing the problem. You could better monitor for latency conditions in the fabric. You could see flows with high latency. Sounds good?
If yes, then you should attend the Brocade session: “Health, Risk and Efficiency Assessment of SAN Infrastructure with vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPS...
“I hear you”, you might say, “but what if I want to use NFS storage instead?”
Well then you will want to attend the Brocade session on deploying NFS in a resilient configuration? A resilient deployment? Yes, this is where Brocade Ethernet fabric comes in. By implementing an on-demand data center based on the SDDC concept, organizations can achieve greater control, flexibility and integration of their IT resources. In order to achieve these benefits, resilient storage and an automated network infrastructure are of key importance. So join Marcus Thordal and Paul Morrissey from HDS who will illustrate: “How to deploy vCloud Suite with a resilient NFS storage and an automated network fabric infrastruct....
Grabbing this VMworld’s theme by the horns, date center networking duet, Chip Copper and Deepak Patil are poised to deliver their session to a full house. A key challenge for everyone considering network virtualization or the broader concept of software-defined networking (SDN) is how to take the first practical steps since everyone has critical applications, databases and storage devices humming on their physical networks today. In their session, “Advanced Network Designs for Data Center Transformation – NET6091”, Chip and Deepak will cover how to unite the physical and virtual resources for cloud workloads. They will show how a Brocade VCS Gateway enables customers to take an evolutionary, resilient and scalable path to the on-demand or software-defined data center.
If these sessions sound good, here is a bonus note. Do come to see our demos and listen to our experts talking about uniting physical and virtual networks, SAN analytics and Ethernet Fabrics in the Brocade’s Booth (# 1513).You might even win a Bose headset.
How committed is Cisco to its MDS line of Fibre Channel directors and switches? In my previous blog, I summarized Cisco’soscillating storage networking strategy between iSCSI, Fibre Channel, InfiniBand, and FCoE. Cisco has been pushing their FCoE agenda through Nexus and UCS, but has finally joined the Gen 5 Fibre Channel party nearly two years after Brocade. So they keep coming back to Fibre Channel, but can Cisco be trusted to deliver credible Fibre Channel solutions?
We initially launched our Gen 5 Fibre Channel portfolio with directors (8- and 4-slot), a fixed-port switch (48-port switch), and adapters (single and dual port AnyIO Fabric Adapters). Since then, we have enhanced the portfolio with additional fixed-port switches (96- and 24-port switches) and embedded switches for blade servers (IBM, Dell, and more to come). More important, we launched a variety of new capabilities designed to improve availability, scalability, and manageability of the SAN fabric, including BrocadeFabric Vision technology with ClearLink diagnostic ports, MAPS, and Flow Vision, UltraScale inter-chassis links, and new health and performance dashboards.
In the two years since our launch, what has Cisco done to advance the technology beyond speeds and feeds? My observation and analysis of their launch is that the products announced (Cisco MDS 9710 Director and MDS 9250i Storage Services Switch) are largely a hardware speed bump with little innovation.
From a hardware perspective, it’s a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t provide much flexibility for customers: one chassis; one Fibre Channel line card; and one multi-service switch (SAN extension, migration, and encryption). The one glaring hole is the lack of a dedicated fixed-port Fibre Channel switch.
What about new innovative functionality? For the MDS 9710 directors, the messaging is focused on 16 Gbps (speed), bandwidth (feed), N+1 fabric module availability (more hardware), multiprotocol (they couldn’t resist going back to FCoE), and investment protection (a veiled feed statement since it’s based on bandwidth).
Looking at some of the claims in more detail:
|Cisco’s Claim||Brocade Fact|
|N+1 fabric redundancy delivers industry’s first 100% reliable SAN fabric||
It’s an irrelevant feature. Availability of the entire chassis depends on all the components, not just the fabric modules. Availability is proven over time, not on paper. Brocade DCX 8510 is proven in the data center with full redundancy and more than five nines availability.
|3X the performance of any director||
The Cisco MDS 9710 (ports+slot) and Brocade DCX 8510 (ports+UltraScale ICLs+slot) have identical usable bandwidth. The MDS 9710 has an additional 6.1 Tbps of slot bandwidth sitting idle, and not usable. The difference is Brocade allocates a portion of the internal switching bandwidth for UltraScale ICLs which provides more scalability and port density for an equal number of chassis.
|50% more line rate ports||
Brocade DCX 8510 provides an identical number of line rate ports (384 16 Gbps ports) with local switching. Local switching provides the lowest latency for directors.
|Protect SAN and end devices from corrupted frames via store and forward||
Brocade’s cut-through switching architecture drives lower switch latency without introducing any data integrity risks. It’s supported by Fibre Channel standards and proven in tens of millions ofdeployed ports worldwide.
Fork-lift free upgrades
The MDS 9710 chassis is not compatible with any previous generation blades, it’s a rip-out and replace. The original DCX chassis is upgradable to the DCX 8510.
With three straight quarters of taking share from Cisco, I like our position and direction. Customers want more from their infrastructure than speeds and feeds and Brocade has been listening and delivering innovative functionality that help them solve real business challenges. Adoption of our Gen 5 Fibre Channel platforms continues to rise every quarter based on innovation like Fabric Vision technology, ClearLink diagnostics, and UltraScale ICLs. Cisco is worthy competitor. Their share gain in servers is impressive - their goal to take over the entire data center is ambitious. That said, it is clear that their commitment to Fibre Channel is half hearted, half baked and disingenuous.
According to Nitin Garg at Cisco (2:45 into the video) "So in fact when we say 16 Gbps Fibre Chanel, there's actually no 16 Gbps anywhere. There's no 16 Gbps on the wire. There's no 16 Gbps data rate. But we call it 16 Gbps Fibre Channel." Even more reason to call it Gen 5 Fibre Channel!
I have to admit that I am flattered that we “amused” Cisco and a few others with our new naming methodology. This difference of approaches is really about separating customer-focused marketing from ivory tower engineering discussions. Rather than respond with a comparable wall of text, I will clarify a few of the points.
First, our intent is to connect with our customers and partners through marketing messaging that changes the focus from speed (in this case 16 Gbps) to the underlying technology (Fibre Channel) and features (such as Fabric Vision, ClearLink diagnostics, UltraScale ICLs, etc.) that customers want to buy. The majority of our customers value reliability, resiliency, and scalability more than they value the speed.
Next, we changed how we refer to 16 Gbps speed, we didn’t change any standards. Gen 5 Fibre Channel equals 16 Gbps Fibre Channel. There’s nothing Brocade-proprietary about it, it’s still Fibre Channel capable of 16 Gbps speed. It includes FCIP, FICON, ISLs, and all of the other standards-based features. It’s laughable that Brocade would be accused of circumventing the standards bodies that we either lead or support. I like our credibility in the Fibre Channel industry. Unlike Cisco, we have never wavered nor compromised our commitment to Fibre Channel:
In addition, when we refer to our own products, we call them Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel directors, switches, and adapters. These products contain technology and capabilities that are unique and differentiated from previous generation and competitive products. However, the foundation of these products is still standards-based Fibre Channel.
Let me repeat, speed is not top-of-mind with most of our customers. It’s why Brocade chose not to highlight the first-to-market 40 Gbps FCoE capabilities of the Brocade VDX 8770 switch at launch in September 2012. The challenge for most customers with FCoE is not speed-related, so throwing more speed at customers accomplishes nothing.
Finally, the irony of Cisco’s response is that a large portion of the content is focused on… (wait for it)… speed. Cisco states, “that most storage networking environments do not saturate classical 8G Fibre Channel lanes”. However, what follows is FCoE chest pounding over how much bigger 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps FCoE will be over Gen 5 Fibre Channel (16 Gbps) and Gen 6 Fibre Channel (32 Gbps). So I guess Cisco’s solution for all customer problems is… (wait for it)… speed.
Even more ironic is that Cisco is rumored to be ready to launch its own version of Gen 5 Fibre Channel products (I mean 16 Gbps) nearly two years after Brocade. At this point there are few people confused by our new name for Fibre Channel: not the customers we have talked with over the past several weeks; not our OEM and ecosystem partners who participated in our launch; not the industry analysts and press who were briefed for the launch; and not even my wife and kids who are waiting on me to finish this blog so I can return to my brief vacation.
In my blog last Wednesday, I wrote about why Brocade is changing the way we talk about Fibre Channel, moving from a speed-based naming convention to a new generation-based name—Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel.
When we introduced our Gen 5 Fibre Channel product line in 2011, there weren’t Gen 5 Fibre Channel adapters from Emulex or QLogic or targets from our storage partners, yet customers bought these new platforms. During our most recent earnings call, we reported that 42% of our SAN shipments were Gen 5 Fibre Channel products. So why are customers adopting Gen 5 Fibre Channel?
It’s not about speed. It’s about the innovative technology and unique capabilities that solve customer challenges. High density virtualization requires unprecedented reliability and performance due to the increased impact of down time and outages. Infrastructure complexity is driving requirements for consolidation and simplification of network resources. Adoption of SSD storage will outpace the I/O demands of legacy SAN infrastructure.
We addressed these challenges with the introduction of the Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel portfolio. We introduced ClearLink diagnostic ports to simplify deployment and support of fabrics through advanced cable and optics diagnostics capabilities. The Brocade DCX 8510 launched with UltraScale inter-chassis link (ICL) technology to simplify scale-out network designs by reducing the number of chassis, ports, and cables required for large fabrics.
Today, Brocade is again raising the bar for Gen 5 Fibre Channel superiority with several innovations that include Brocade Fabric Vision technology and the Brocade 6520, the industry’s highest density fixed-port switch.
Brocade Fabric Vision technology—advanced monitoring, management, and diagnostic tools integrated into a Gen 5 Fibre Channel fabric that helps customers maximize infrastructure availability, dramatically reduce operational and capital equipment costs, and optimize application performance. Fabric vision leverages the capabilities of Brocade’s Gen 5 Fibre Channel switching ASICs, Brocade Fabric Operating System (FOS), and Brocade Network Advisor.
Fabric Vision technology introduces the following new capabilities:
Brocade also announced the Brocade 6520 Switch, expanding our comprehensive Gen 5 Fibre Channel solution portfolio. The Brocade 6520 offers industry-leading port density in a fixed-port switch, offering up to 96 ports in a 2U form factor--helping customers consolidate their switch infrastructure and reduce costs.
In addition, Brocade demonstrated its industry leadership by announcing a commitment to develop new Gen 6 Fibre Channel SAN solutions based on the FC-PI-6 industry standard. Brocade is working with the Fibre Channel Industry Association to drive the adoption of these new solutions. Our engineers and developers are already working hard to design the Gen 6 Fibre Channel ASICs and software that will power the next generation of switches.
Brocade is also leading an industry consortium within the OpenStack community to develop open source software that simplifies the orchestration of Fibre Channel resources in cloud architectures. We have been leading an industry consortium of Fibre Channel vendors to ensure that our cloud-based customers have a path for orchestration of Fibre Channel resources in an OpenStack infrastructure.
I have spent the last few weeks in seemingly non-stop briefings to industry analysts and press and training sessions with our field sales and partners. I couldn’t ask for more positive feedback. The market continues to grow and customers continue to buy Brocade Fibre Channel because it is the best infrastructure for enterprise storage.
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It was never supposed to be about the speed. The initial messaging for our platform launch in May 2011 was carefully crafted to focus on enabling and optimizing private cloud storage architectures. We spent many hours creatively thinking of positioning and value propositions that would highlight the unique and innovative technology that our talented engineers developed.
When we develop new switching platforms, a speed bump is just one of many features and functions. Over the years we have introduced innovative technology such as frame-based trunking, Brocade Access Gateway, integrated routing, and local switching. Current platform enhancements include Brocade UltraScale Inter-Chassis Links (ICLs) that enable flatter, faster, and simpler fabrics that increase consolidation while reducing network complexity and costs. We also introduced Brocade ClearLink diagnostic port technology which ensures optical and signal integrity for optics and cables, simplifying deployment and support of high performance fabrics.
In homage to Fight Club, I would often start product launch training meetings with the following rules:
However, when it came time to label these new platforms, the path of least resistance for most people was to call them “16 Gbps” backbones or switches. Other labels like “next-generation switches” seemed too cliché while “cloud-optimized switches” required a lot of explanation. In seven characters (including one space), our newest platforms became part of the “16 Gbps” product launch.
Fibre Channel has long been defined by speed. Paradoxically, when you ask SAN customers why they continue to buy Fibre Channel, there’s a six-nines probability that they will say it’s because of reliability or availability. At best, speed is a distant second or third choice; it’s a stereotype that has stuck in the progression from 1, 2, 4, 8 and now 16 Gbps Fibre Channel technology.
It’s time to break the status quo, it’s not about speed. We are moving away from speed-based naming to generation-based naming.
One of the cues we took came from the wireless industry. Most people intuitively know there’s a technology leap between 1G and 4G/LTE phone technology (talk time, dimensions, data, applications, etc.).
Gen 5 Fibre Channel is the new name we are using for 16 Gbps technology. Like the wireless industry, Gen 5 Fibre Channel represents a technology leap that is more than faster speeds.
Simply put, Gen 5 Fibre Channel is the purpose-built, data center-proven network infrastructure for storage, delivering unmatched reliability, simplicity, and 16 Gbps performance. The Brocade portfolio of Gen 5 Fibre Channel backbones and switches unleash the full potential of high-density server virtualization, cloud architectures, and next-generation storage.
So far the response from our field, partners, and customers has been overwhelmingly positive. A simple name change has started to change the narrative and discussions around Fibre Channel. Will others in the ecosystem follow? Stay tuned.