Flash Memory Summit 2019 – Day 3 Wrap Up

The third and final day of the Flash Memory Summit was as busy as the previous two. Most conferences fizzle out the last day; FMS day 3 was still abuzz with interesting sessions and quality briefings.

Briefing 1 – Fibre Channel Industry Association

The Fibre Channel (FC) protocol, probably more so than any other, can thank flash memory for its resurgence. All-Flash arrays can take full advantage of FC’s low latency and deterministic delivery. While flash memory may have reinvigorated fibre channel, it is Non-Volatile Memory Express over Fabric (NVMe-oF), which promises to take it to new heights. NVMe-oF promises to enable shared storage systems to deliver even lower latencies and advanced networking functionality. NVMe-oF though, is available in several forms including IP, Infiniband and FC. While the IP implementation receives a lot of attention and continues to become more reliable, the fibre implementation seems to be the most stable and ready to go.

The next challenge is creating an end-to-end Fibre, NVMe-oF solution. Almost any switch bought in the last few years should support NVMe-oF, as do most fibre channel interface cards in hosts. Additionally, almost every major storage system manufacturer has delivered an NVMe All-Flash array that uses internal NVMe flash drives and external NVMe network connections.

The missing element for end-to-end NVMe is operating system drivers. Most Linux distributions have NVMe-oF Fibre Channel drivers and the current beta of vSphere has NVMe-oF Fibre Channel drivers as well. Any virtual machine running in the next version of vSphere will inherit NVMe support. However, this is a key missing element in Microsoft OS offerings. Microsoft’s stance on NVMe-oF on Fibre Channel is unclear at this point.

Briefing 2 – Excelero NVEdge

At FMS, Excelero, whose NVMesh solution primarily focuses on large hyperscalers, who need the highest performing scale-out NVMe solution, announced a smaller scale-up solution. The NVEdge is a block storage software target for two markets. The first is cloud data centers that design architectures where a rack is the limit of the default domain. These data centers still can take advantage of NVMe performance but they don’t need the massive scale-out capabilities in Excelero’s more traditional NVMesh solution. These organizations want a single chassis solution and they need high availability (HA). The second market are deployments requiring an HA NVMe storage array but without the need for massive scale. These deployments include edge data centers and mid-tier data centers.

Excelero’s NVEdge supports HA x86 systems as well as newer SmartNIC-based platforms such as Mellanox BlueField and Broadcom Stingray. Based in part on SPDK for writing high performance, scaleable, user-mode storage applications, NVEdge support both Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) and TCP/IP networking. It also includes features for data protection, thin provisioning and checkboxes. Excelero claims that the solution is able to reach full bandwidth at 4K IO across a 100Gbps network with thin provisioned logical volumes.

Excelero made it clear that, as a company, they remain focused on large scale-out storage infrastructures using its NVMesh solution. The company expects to deliver NVEdge through select OEMs, integrators and tech giants.

Also at FMS, Excelero received a best in show award for NVMesh2 SmartNIC-enabled client-free, shared NVMe that avoids taxing CPUs and makes storage software OS-agnostic.

Learn more about NVMesh2 in our briefing note: “Delivering Storage for Web-Scale IT in the Enterprise“.

Learn more about the BlueField Smart NIC in our briefing note “Solving the Software Defined Storage Bottleneck“.

Briefing 3 – Mellanox

Next up on our briefing queue was Mellanox. Unfortunately, the most exciting part of the briefing is under embargo until VMworld but Storage Switzerland will have a complete write up about the announcement when it launches.

At FMS, however, Mellanox did announced that their Ethernet and InfiniBand ConnectX smart adapter solutions are optimized for the AMD EPYC 7002 Series processor-based compute and storage infrastructures. The second generation of AMD EPYC processors support PCI Express 4.0. The combination of the Mellanox ConnectX adapters and AMD EPYC mean that high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, cloud and enterprise data centers can finally get the high data bandwidth they need for even the most demanding applications and storage.

The AMD EPYC 7002 processor platform supports a large number of PCIe 4.0 lanes and enables direct connectivity to 24 NVMe storage drives plus ConnectX 100 and 200 GBs adapters while achieving full I/O throughout. AMD is the first supplier to support PCIe 4.0.

Session 2 – Computational Storage – Implementation and Applications

We spent the afternoon of day three chairing the Computational Storage sessions. The first session focused on implementation and the second focused on applications that can take advantage of Computational Storage.

At its most basic, computational storage involves putting processing power where the data resides. In the case of flash storage, a computational storage vendor installs processing power on the flash drive.

To learn more about Computational Storage Listen to an on-demand panel discussion featuring many of the speakers from the FMS session.

NGD Systems and ScaleFlux are two Computational Storage vendors we’ve covered extensively.

Read the ScaleFlux Briefing Note “Customizable and More Efficient Computational Storage“.

Read the NGD Systems Briefing Note “Is Your Application Performance Too Slow? Consider Computational Storage“.

We also put together a complete eBook on “Computational Storage”, which you can get by registering for our 15 Minute webinar “Rethinking Storage Performance for Modern Applications“.

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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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