The three requirements of the modern Storage Network

The storage network has new requirements being placed on it so it can keep pace with the modern data center. The first cause of change is being driven by virtualization, both server and desktop. We have the compute power and recently RAM capacity to host many more virtual machines per physical server. The second is the speed of the storage media driven by the rapid adoption of flash based or assisted storage systems. The interconnection between these two points, the storage network, has to change in order to keep pace.

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Requirement 1 – Do No Harm

Storage networks are transitioned, they are not upgraded or refreshed. This means that as the bandwidth and capabilities of the network are upgraded, they need to be seamlessly compatible with the legacy infrastructure. Fibre channel (FC) storage networks are an excellent example of “do no harm” in action. While Gen 5 FC (16Gbps) adoption is now well under way, it can be easily integrated into the existing infrastructure. In fact, FC has a proven track record of “doing no harm” as various generations have co-existed for over a decade.

Requirement 2 – Raw Speed

The second requirement is that the network be able to deliver the raw speed that the modern data center demands. As we strive toward more scalable databases and more densely packed virtual infrastructures, the cumulative impact of random I/O requires flash storage. In order to be used to it’s full potential, flash needs a network that not only has the speed to keep up with it, but also one that can provide lossless communication. One transmission retry can eliminate all the reduced latency benefits that flash offers.

Requirement 3 – Responsible Allocation (QoS)

The third requirement and the potentially most important, is the ability to granularly allocate how the additional speed is utilized. In many data centers, certain applications carry a higher level of business criticality and have a justifiable need for more networking resources than other applications. The modern storage network needs the ability to prioritize bandwidth right down to the virtual machine level so that mission critical applications are not adversely impacted by other less important workloads.


When these three requirements are satisfied, the IT planner is well on their way to designing a densely packed virtual machine infrastructure that can allow flash based SSD to deliver on its full potential. The net result is reduced costs (through the more efficient deployment of flash resources?) and a greater ability to respond to the needs of the business.

To learn more about the the three requirements of modern storage networks, watch Storage Switzerland, Brocade, and VMware’s discussion “Maximum VM Density Requires Optimal Storage Networking & Operational Transparency“.

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Brocade and VMware are clients of Storage Switzerland

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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