The new Cisco 9132T NVMe and the future of NVMe-OF and FC-NVMe
This week -- Jan 29 to Feb 2, 2018 -- I am in New York city with other IBM Storage executives, to meet with Channel distributors and Business Partners. If you are in the NYC area, and wish to have a product briefing, or just dinner or drinks, let me know!
IBM and Cisco announced the [ Cisco MDS 9132T 32G Fabric Switch for IBM Storage Networking], the next generation of Cisco MDS Series Fabric switches, combining high performance with outstanding flexibility and cost effectiveness.
I believe the "T" stands for "Third generation", as we have had other 9132 boxes before. Here are the details:
Why is this important? Because the 16 Gbps and 32 Gbps transceivers support NVMe over Fabrics. Let's do a quick NVMe recap:
Last May, IBM announced that its developers are re-tooling the end-to-end storage stack to support [New Faster Protocols for Flash Storage], to boost the experience of everyone consuming the massive amounts of data now being perpetuated across cloud services, retail, banking, travel and other industries.
NVMe is a new language protocol that is replacing traditional SAS and SATA standards for solid state drives (SSD). Through employing parallelism, to simultaneously process data across a network of devices, clients can anticipate significantly reduced delays caused by data bottlenecks and move higher volumes of data within their existing flash storage systems.
(For some basic background, Cisco's J Metz explains [NVMe for Absolute Beginners]. You can also ready the IBM Redbook [IBM Storage and the NVM Express Revolution] by Ioannis Koltsidas and Vincent Hsu.)
IBM's NVMe strategy is based on optimizing the entire storage system stack - from applications requiring the data to flash technology to store it. Through the development of its FlashSystem family of all-flash storage solutions, IBM recognized years ago that multiple technologies would be required to address the demands of ultra-low latency data processing. IBM is developing solutions with NVMe across its storage portfolio, which it plans to bring to market in 2018.
At the AI Summit New York, December 2017, IBM disclosed a [technology preview and demonstration] with the integration of IBM POWER9 Systems and IBM FlashSystem 900 using NVMe-over-Fabrics InfiniBand. This combination of technologies is ideally suited to run cognitive solutions such as IBM PowerAI Vision, which can ingest massive amounts of data while simultaneously completing real time inferencing (object detection).
Whether it is streams of data, transactional data, or batch processes, a consistent requirement is the lowest possible latency. Among the leading all flash storage vendors, IBM with its FlashSystem 900, has stuck to its mission delivering low latency all flash arrays. Along comes NVMe-oF, which is, at its core, about getting rid of latency.
How do you take an already low latency protocol, like InfiniBand or Fibre Channel, and make it faster? Replace SCSI with NVMe and enable NVMe from server to fabric to storage array.
The FlashSystem 900 has been shipping with InfiniBand using SRP (SCSI over RDMA) for many years. In the technology preview, the very same InfiniBand adapter, based on the Mellanox chip set, is instead used to support the OpenFabrics driver distribution and NVMe-oF InfiniBand.
While the demonstration last December used Infiniband, this is not the only transport. NVMe-OF can also be used with Ethernet, either using Internet Wide Area RDMA (iWARP) or RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). NVMe-OF over Fibre Channel is often referred to as FC-NVMe, and can drive NVMe over FCP or FCoE. Even though iWARP, RoCE and FCoE are all Ethernet-based, NVME-OF RDMA on the first two is different than FC-NVMe over FCoE.
Why not just drive NVMe commands over standard TCP/IP? The NVMe standards board is actually investigating this, but probably won't have anything until next year in 2019.
This week, IBM will be at the [Cisco Live!] event in Barcelona, Spain, talking about this new 9132T switch, as well as all of our VersaStack solutions! I won't be there, obviously, since I am in New York City, but if you are there, please send me photos! Barcelona is a wonderful city!
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