Transforming Networking with IP Storage

By George Chacko, Systems Engineering and Lead Technical Consultant, Brocade India

As data grows dramatically, storage requirements have sky-rocketed and are now measured in petabytes instead of terabytes. Five years ago, it was inconceivable that an enterprise would trust its mission-critical data to an IP storage solution. However, times have changed. Today, business-critical data is increasingly being stored on IP-based storage solutions due to the high-level speeds and reliability of IP storage devices. Enterprises have experienced for themselves that deployment of a separate network dedicated to IP Storage in the data centre is the best option to achieve greater reliability and a more deterministic infrastructure for IP Storage. 

A physically separate IP storage network delivers predictable performance, provides security for storage data flows between data centers, contains failure domains, and maximizes uptime. They also provide increasing levels of manageability, interoperability and cost-effectiveness. 

To successfully leverage IP Storage for business-critical applications, the following needs to be considered: 
• Achieve service level agreements for business-critical
applications running on ultra-low latency solid state
drives, 
• Gain disaster recovery solutions that deliver local
replication performance over long distances, and 
• Benefit from unified management of IP and Fibre
Channel storage networking.

These storage networks need to be based on flexible, open network architecture that deliver a simplified infrastructure and help fulfill the promise of IDC’s Third Platform compute model, with low, deterministic latency, guaranteed delivery, a smaller administrative domain that is easier to troubleshoot, fewer configuration compromises, better fault isolation, and less complexity to upgrade and maintain.

Dedicated Networks for IP Storage

To achieve the required SLA for business-critical applications and to take better advantage of the read and write characteristics of flash storage, co-mingling of IP storage traffic with other data traffic like email, video, web and voice traffic in the same network will defeat those objectives and SLAs. 

The impact is that all the other data traffic will make the network highly unpredictable and difficult to troubleshoot should there be IP storage issues. With a dedicated network for IP storage, business-critical service level agreements can be addressed with resilient, high-performance Ethernet fabric, to deliver predictable performance and high resiliency for business-critical applications. 

With technologies such as Ethernet Fabrics like VCS, it allows for easy provisioning and operations of the IP storage network due to the automation capabilities built into the Ethernet Fabric. The result is minimal configuration and intervention as multiple switches in the fabric can be configured and managed as a single logical element. Within the Ethernet Fabric, multi-pathing between switches will provide storage-class resiliency with non-disruptive failover after a path or link failure. 

IP Storage Extension for Disaster Recovery 

A key concern with IP storage is with disaster recovery and the ability to provide local replication performance over long distances between geographically-distributed data centers - with strong encryption – will alleviate this concern. With the SAN Extension switches, not only can enterprise meet the disaster recover requirement, it also allows for up to 50 times more data that can be moved to meet recovery objectives. 

In addition, WAN links can be maximized through protocol optimization technology, and downtime can be minimized to overcome failure of WAN links, latency, packet loss and security challenges. Compared to using a native replication application, it is possible to now deliver 320 megabytes per second of replication data over long distances with 25 milliseconds latency and 0.1 percent packet loss. 

Unified Storage Network Management

To gain unprecedented network visibility and insight across the storage network, unified network management allows monitoring of IP and Fibre Channel health and performance from a single dashboard, simplifying network monitoring and providing alerts with Fabric Vision technology and integrating network data into VMware vRealize to maximize VM performance and availability. These capabilities allow pre-validation and troubleshooting of the physical infrastructure to streamline deployment.

Fabric vision technology for IP storage visualizes network health and performance, increases instrumentation and granularity for real-time visibility and actionable insights, and simplifies monitoring with the deployment of pre-defined policies, rules and actions.
By automatically detecting and recovering from errors, providing early warning of potential problems and minimizing downtime with faster troubleshooting, common network problems are reduced and availability is increased. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, for larger environments, there are compelling advantages to having a separate physical network for IP storage traffic, regardless of whether one uses block storage (iSCSI) or NAS storage (CIFS and NFS). These include low, deterministic latency, guaranteed delivery, a smaller administrative domain -which is easier to troubleshoot, fewer configuration compromises, better fault isolation, and less complexity to upgrade and maintain. Simplifying the data center network design by using a dedicated IP network for storage pays dividends. This is why leading application vendors recommend this as a design best practice.

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