Posted By Industry Perspectives On March 21, 2012 @ 8:30 am In Industry Perspectives | 1 Comment
Tim Lustig is Director of Corporate Marketing at QLogic.  With more than 15 years of experience in the storage networking industry, Lustig has authored numerous papers and articles on all aspects of IT storage.
With the enticements of convergence promising delivery of the holy grail of networks, enterprises are evaluating implementations of storage and data traffic over a single network. Advantages include reduction in deployment costs, reduced Capex and Opex expenditures and simplified network management. In this article, we’ll look at the challenges and solutions for convergence in the data center.
Convergence means using a common cabling and switching infrastructure to replace what are now disparate server and storage networks. Data center convergence is in its infancy, but convergence has been well demonstrated in IP voice networks, where telephony and Ethernet data traffic share the same infrastructure for reduced costs and simpler management. The goal of data center convergence should be to enable IT to share, manage and protect data assets more strategically and efficiently.
A converged network incorporates Ethernet and Fibre Channel traffic over a common infrastructure. Ethernet is the foundation for converged networks due to the ubiquity of its presence for connecting data traffic between computers. With the introduction of 10Gb Ethernet, the bandwidth required to converge is now available.
NAS subsystems utilize network file sharing protocols to transport data over Ethernet networks, so storage is not new to Ethernet and the larger pipe that 10Gb offers will assist in combining traffic. Fibre Channel is the basis for the storage area networks (SANs). The difference between NAS and Fibre Channel is that Fibre Channel handles data in blocks and is a lossless protocol while NAS moves it in files over a lossy Ethernet network.
Convergence takes the best of both and allows for lossless Ethernet traffic to allow block-based transmission and allows applications that lend themselves to block-based I/O – for example, larger structured databases, which will be ideal candidates for this new converged Network. Convergence simplifies the infrastructure, which facilitates the deployment of high availability solutions and provides the underlying foundation for service-oriented, utility-based computing.
To implement a converged network, the network will be run over converged network adapters (CNAs), which support Ethernet TCP/IP, FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) and iSCSI. These adapters send traffic to a switch that supports four new capabilities that were added to the Ethernet protocol:
Typically, this transformation begins at the SAN edges, where the cabling densities are the highest. It also allows for a slow migration to convergence utilizing the existing network infrastructure and end devices.
Converged networks present unique technological challenges. The storage network has emerged as a primary component of the IT infrastructure that has, as its primary goal, the delivery and protection of information. Network convergence “transfers” several security risks.
Network and data center managers must not simply provide bandwidth. They must ensure that each system, function and application on the network has the amount of bandwidth and network quality of service it needs while attaining interoperability and avoiding bottlenecks.
Legacy architectures constrain today’s data centers due to an exponential increase in applications, servers, storage, and network traffic. Converged networks present challenges, but they provide customers with a long-term, future proof strategy to develop a single, converged data center fabric with the flexibility and performance that scales.
Convergence is the basis for cloud computing and paves the way to harness, scale, and dynamically allocate any resource – including routing, switching, security services, storage systems, appliances and servers – without compromising performance.
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