Brocade gears up for NVMe in the data centre

When Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. launched its Gen 5 Fibre Channel directors back in 2011, it was in anticipation that flash would be widely adopted in the data centre.

Now it’s following up with its Gen 6 Fibre Channel directors as all-flash data centres are now a reality and flash storage based on Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is gathering more steam as the supporting ecosystem elements fall into place.

In the past five years, said Scott Shimomura, Brocade’s senior director of product marketing, enterprises have shifted from building data centres for their own sake to better aligning them with business requirements. “Customers are being driven by digital transformation.” Regardless of workload, he said, whether it’s Internet of Things (IoT), social media, mobility, big data or Pokémon Go driving it to transform, customers’ expectations of the data centre haven’t changed. “They expect it to be an ultra-reliable and secure environment.”

That means general purpose networking isn’t enough, said Shimomura. Storage-specific networking is essential to being able to see problems and do something before it impacts the business, workload or user experience. He said its updated Fibre Channel directors boast more speeds and feeds, “but this latest generation is about improving user experience.”

Software updates provide for more automation and visibility for administrators, said Shimomura. “There are more best practices built into policies. They don’t have to be the experts that we are in fibre channel networking.”

Virtualization continues to be a significant factor in driving changes in the data centre as well as faster network requirements and massive amounts of data, he said. “We predicted when we launched Gen 5 in 2011 that flash would take over the enterprise and be a disruptive force. We’re starting to see signs of it.”

Brocade’s Gen 6 Fibre Channel portfolio includes its X6 Director Family and SX6 Extension Blade hardware, its Fabric Vision technology and integrated monitoring for storage IO and VM performance. The advent of the all-flash data centre has meant that customers now have to think of their network as being a potential bottleneck, said Shimomura, and the product update includes 32 Gbps performance to accelerate application response time by up to 71 per cent over the previous generation to eliminating IO bottlenecks as well as support next generation NVMe-based storage. “We see flash coming into another wave of innovation with the coming technology of NVMe.”

NVMe is a standardized register interface, command, and feature set for PCIe-based storage technologies such as SSDs, designed specifically for non-volatile memory. It is optimized for high performance and low latency, scaling from client to enterprise segments. In order for NVMe to thrive in the enterprise, it needs to have a network that keeps up, said Shimomura. “That’s how you unlock scale.”

He said NVMe further exemplifies the need for storage-specific networking, for which fibre channel is better suited than Ethernet or Infiniband. “Fibre channel is a no compromise network. It was designed for storage.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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