GPU growth and the compute changeover

Attended SC17 last month in Denver and Nvidia had almost as big a presence as Intel. Their VR display was very nice as compared to some of the others at the show.

GPU past

GPU’s were originally designed to support visualization and the computation to render a specific scene quickly and efficiently. In order to do this they were designed with 100s to now 1000s of arithmetically intensive (floating point) compute engines where each engine could be given an individual pixel or segment of an image and compute all the light rays and visual aspects pertinent to that scene in a very short amount of time. This created a quick and efficient multi-core engine to render textures and map polygons of an image.

Image rendering required highly parallel computations and as such more compute engines meant faster scene throughput. This led to todays GPUs that have 1000s of cores. In contrast, standard microprocessor CPUs have 10-60 compute cores today.

GPUs today 

Funny thing, there are lots of other applications for many core engines. For example, GPUs also have a place to play in the development and mining of crypto currencies because of their ability to perform many cryptographic operations a second, all in parallel

Another significant driver of GPU sales and usage today seems to be AI, especially machine learning. For instance, at SC17, visual image recognition was on display at dozens of booths besides Intel and Nvidia. Such image recognition  AI requires a lot of floating point computation to perform well.

I saw one article that said GPUs can speed up Machine Learning (ML) by a factor of 250 over standard CPUs. There’s a highly entertaining video clip at the bottom of the Nvidia post that shows how parallel compute works as compared to standard CPUs.

GPU’s play an important role in speech recognition and image recognition (through ML) as well. So we find that they are being used in self-driving cars, face recognition, and other image processing/speech recognition tasks.

The latest Apple X iPhone has a Neural Engine which my best guess is just another version of a GPU. And the iPhone 8 has a custom GPU.

Tesla is also working on a custom AI engine for its self driving cars.

So, over time, GPUs will have an increasing role to play in the future of AI and crypto currency and as always, image rendering.


Photo Credit(s): SC17 logo, SC17 website;

GTX1070(GP104) vs. GTX1060(GP106) by Fritzchens Fritz;

Intel 2nd Generation core microprocessor codenamed Sandy Bridge wafer by Intel Free Press

Intel Cloud Day 2016 news and views

 A couple of weeks back I was at Intel Cloud Day 2016 with the rest of the TFD team. We listened to a number of presentations from Intel Management team mostly about how the IT world was changing and how they planned to help lead the transition to the new cloud world.

The view from Intel is that any organization with 1200 to 1500 servers has enough scale to do a private cloud deployment that would be more economical than using public cloud services. Intel’s new goal is to facilitate (private) 10,000 clouds, being deployed across the world.

In order to facilitate the next 10,000, Intel is working hard to introduce a number of new technologies and programs that they feel can make it happen. One that was discussed at the show was the new OpenStack scheduler based on Google’s open sourced, Kubernetes technologies which provides container management for Google’s own infrastructure but now supports the OpenStack framework.

Another way Intel is helping is by building a new 1000 (500 now) server cloud test lab in San Antonio, TX. Of course the servers will be use the latest Xeon chips from Intel (see below for more info on the latest chips). The other enabling technology discussed a lot at the show was software defined infrastructure (SDI) which applies across the data center, networking and storage.

According to Intel, security isn’t the number 1 concern holding back cloud deployments anymore. Nowadays it’s more the lack of skills that’s governing how quickly the enterprise moves to the cloud.

At the event, Intel talked about a couple of verticals that seemed to be ahead of the pack in adopting cloud services, namely, education and healthcare.  They also spent a lot of time talking about the new technologies they were introducing today.
Continue reading “Intel Cloud Day 2016 news and views”

QoM 16-001: Will NVMe GA in enterprise storage over the next 12 months? Yes 0.68 probability

NVMeThe latest analyst forecast contest Question of the Month (QoM 16-001) is on whether NVMe PCIe-SSDs will GA in enterprise storage over the next 12 months? For more information on our analyst forecast contest, please check out the post.

There are a couple of considerations that would impact NVMe adoption.

Availability of NVMe SSDs?

Intel, Samsung, Seagate and WD-HGST are currently shipping 2.5″ & HH-HL NVMe PCIe SSDs for servers. Hynix, Toshiba, and others had samples at last year’s Flash Memory Summit and promised production early this year. So yes, they are available, from at least 3 sources now, including enterprise class storage vendors, with more coming online over the year.

Some advantages of NVMe SSDs?

Advantages of NVMe (compiled from NVMe organization and other NVMe sources):

  • Lower SSD write and read IO access latencies
  • Higher mixed IOPS performance
  • Widespread OS support (not necessarily used in storage systems
  • Lower power consumption
  • X4 PCIe support
  • NVMe over FC Fabric (new RDMA) support

Disadvantages of NVMe SSDs?

Disadvantages of NVMe (compiled from NVMe drive reviewers and other sources):

  • Smaller form factors limit (MLC) capacity SSDs
  • New cabling (U.2) for 2.5″ SSDs
  • BIOS changes to support boot from NVMe (not much of a problem in storage systems)

Not many enterprise storage vendors use PCIe Flash

Current storage vendors that use PCIe flash (sourced from web searches on PCIe flash for major storage vendors):

  • Using PCIe SSDs as part or only storage tier
    • Kamanario K2 all flash array
    • NexGen storage hybrid storage
  • NetApp (PCIe) FlashCache
  • Others (?2) with Volatile cache backed by PCIe SSDs
  • Others (?2) using PCIe SSD as Non-volatile cache

Only a few of these will have new storage hardware out over the next 12 months. I estimated (earlier) about 1/3 of current storage vendors will release new hardware over the next 12 months.

The advantages of NVMe don’t matter as much unless you have a lot of PCIe flash in your system, so the 2 vendors above that use PCIe SSDs as storage are probably most likely to move to NVMe, but the limited size of NVMe drives, the meagre performance speed up to storage available from NVMe, may make NVMe adoption less likely.  So maybe there’s a 0.3 probability * 1/3 (of vendors with hardware refresh) * 2 (vendors using PCIe flash as storage) or ~0.2.

For the other 5 candidates listed above, the advantages for NVMe aren’t that significant, so if they are refreshing their hardware, there’s maybe a low chance that they will take on NVMe, mainly because it’s going to become the prominent PCIe flash protocol, So maybe that adds another 0.15 of probability * 1/3 * 5 or ~0.25. (When I originally formulated the NVMe QoM I had not anticipated NVMe SSDs backing up volatile cache but they certainly exist, today.)

Other potential candidate for NVMe are all start ups. EMC DSSD uses PCIe fabric for it’s NAND support, and could already be making use of NVMe. (Although, I would  not classify DSSD as an enterprise storage vendor.)

But there may be other start ups out there using PCIe flash that would consider moving to NVMe. A while back, I estimated there’s ~3 startups likely to emerge over the next year. It’s almost a certainty that they would all have some sort of flash storage., but maybe only one of them would make use of PCIe SSDs. And it’s unclear whether they would use NVMe drives as main storage or for caching. So, splitting the difference in probabilities, we will use 0.23 probability * 1 or ~0.23.

So total up my forecast we forecast for NVMe adoption in GA enterprise storage hardware over the next 12 months to be Yes with 0.68 probability. 

The other likely candidates that will support NVMe are software defined storage or hyper converged storage. I don’t list these as enterprise storage vendors but I could be convinced that this was a mistake. If I add in SW defined storage the probability goes up, to high 0.80s to low 0.90s.



Next generation NVM, 3D XPoint from Intel + Micron

cross_point_image_for_photo_capsuleEarlier this week Intel-Micron announced (see webcast here and here)  a new, transistor-less NVM with 1000 time the speed (10µsec access time for NAND) of NAND [~10ns (nano-second) access times] and at 10X the density of DRAM (currently 16Gb/DRAM chip). They call the new technology 3D XPoint™ (cross-point) NVM (non-volatile memory).

In addition to the speed and density advantages, 3D XPoint NVM also doesn’t have the endurance problems associated with todays NAND. Intel and Micron say that it has 1000 the endurance of today’s NAND (MLC NAND endurance is ~3000 write (P/E) cycles).

At that 10X current DRAM density it’s roughly equivalent to todays MLC/TLC NAND capacities/chip. And at 1000 times the speed of NAND, it’s roughly equivalent in performance to DDR4 DRAM. Of course, because it’s non-volatile it should take much less power to use than current DRAM technology, no need for power refresh.

We have talked about the end of NAND before (see The end of NAND is here, maybe). If this is truly more scaleable than NAND it seems to me that the it does signal the end of NAND. It’s just a matter of time before endurance and/or density growth of NAND hits a wall and then 3D XPoint can do everything NAND can do but better, faster and more reliably.

3D XPoint technology

The technology comes from a dual layer design which is divided into columns and at the top and bottom of the columns are accessor connections in an orthogonal pattern that together form a grid to access a single bit of memory.  This also means that 3D Xpoint NVM can be read and written a bit at a time (rather than a “page” at a time with NAND) and doesn’t have to be initialized to 0 to be written like NAND.

The 3D nature of the new NVM comes from the fact that you can build up as many layers as you want of these structures to create more and more NVM cells. The microscopic pillar  between the two layers of wiring include a memory cell and a switch component which allows a bit of data to be accessed (via the switch) and stored/read (memory cell). In the photo above the yellow material is a switch and the green material is a memory cell.

A memory cell operates by a using a bulk property change of the material. Unlike DRAM (floating gates of electrons) or NAND (capacitors to hold memory values). As such it uses all of the material to hold a memory value which should allow 3D XPoint memory cells to scale downwards much better than NAND or DRAM.

Intel and Micron are calling the new 3D XPoint NVM storage AND memory. That is suitable for fast access, non-volatile data storage and non-volatile processor memory.

3D XPoint NVM chips in manufacturing today

First chips with the new technology are being manufactured today at Intel-Micron’s joint manufacturing fab in Idaho. The first chips will supply 128Gb of NVM and uses just two layers of 3D XPoint memory.

Intel and Micron will independently produce system products (read SSDs or NVM memory devices) with the new technology during 2016. They mentioned during the webcast that the technology is expected to be attached (as SSDs) to a PCIe bus and use NVMe as an interface to read and write it. Although if it’s used in a memory application, it might be better attached to the processor memory bus.

The expectation is that the 3D XPoint cost/bit will be somewhere in between NAND and DRAM, i.e. more expensive than NAND but less expensive than DRAM. It’s nice to be the only companies in the world with a new, better storage AND memory technology.


Over the last 10 years or so, SSDs (solid state devices) all used NAND technologies of one form or another, but after today SSDs can be made from NAND or 3D XPoint technology.

Some expected uses for the new NVM is in gaming applications (currently storage speed and memory constrained) and for in-memory databases (which are memory size constrained).  There was mention on the webcast of edge analytics as well.

Welcome to the dawn of a new age of computer storage AND memory.

Photo Credits: (c) 2015 Intel and Micron, from Intel’s 3D XPoint website

Interesting sessions at SNIA DSI Conference 2015

I attended the SNIA Data Storage Innovation (DSI) Conference in Santa Clara, CA last week and ran into a number of old friends and met a few new ones. While attending the conference, there were a few sessions that seemed to bring the conference to life for me.

Microsoft Software Defined Storage Journey

Jose Barreto, Principal Program Manager – Microsoft, spent a little time on what’s currently shipping with Scale-out File Service, Storage Spaces and other storage components of Windows software defined storage solutions. Essentially, what Microsoft is learning from Azure cloud deployments it is slowly but surely being implemented in Windows Server software and other solutions.

Microsoft ‘s vision is that customers can have their own private cloud storage with partner storage systems (SAN & NAS), with Microsoft SDS (Scale-out File Server with Storage Spaces), with hybrid cloud storage (StorSimple with Azure storage) and public cloud storage (Azure storage).

Jose also mentioned other recent innovations like the Cloud Platform System using Microsoft software, Dell compute, Force 10 networking and JBOD (PowerVault MD3060e) storage in a rack.

Some recent Microsoft SDS innovations include:

  • HDD and SSD storage tiering;
  • Shared volume storage;
  • System Center volume and unified storage management;
  • PowerShell integration;
  • Multi-layer redundancy across nodes, disk enclosures, and disk devices; and
  • Independent scale-out of compute or storage.

Probably a few more I’m missing here but these will suffice.

Then, Jose broke some news on what’s coming next in Windows Server storage offerings:

  • Quality of service (QoS) – Windows Server provides QoS capabilities which allows one to limit the IO activity and can be used to specify min and max IOPS or latency at a VM or VHD level. The scale-out storage service will balance the IO activity across the cluster to meet this QoS specification. Apparently the balancing algorithm came from Microsoft Research but Jose didn’t go into great detail on what it did differently other than being “fairer” applying QoS constraints.
  • Rolling upgrades – Windows Server now supports a cluster running different versions of software. Now one can take a cluster node down and update its software and re-activate it into the same cluster. Previously, code upgrades had to take a whole cluster down at a time.
  • Synchronous replication – Windows Server now supports synchronous Storage Replicast the volume level. Previously Storage Replicas were limited to asynch.
  • Higher VM storage resiliency – Windows will now pause a VM rather than terminate it during transient storage interruptions. This allows VMs to sustain operations across transient outages. VMs are in PausedCritical state until the storage comes back and then they are restarted automatically.
  • Shared-nothing Storage Spaces – Windows Storage Spaces can be configured across cluster nodes without shared storage. Previously, Storage Spaces required shared JBOD storage between cluster nodes. This feature removes this configuration constraint and allows JBOD storage to only be accessible fro a single node.

Jose did not name what this  “Vnext” was going to be called and didn’t provide a specific time frame other than it’s coming out shortly.

Archival Disc Technology

Yasumori  Hino from Panasonic and Jun Nakano from Sony presented information on a brand new removable media technology or Cold Storage. Previous to there session there was another one from HDS Federal Corporation on their BluRay jukebox but Yasumori’s and Jun’s session was more noteworthy.The  new Archive Disc is the next iteration in optical storage beyond BlueRay and targeted at long term archive or “cold” storage.

As a prelude to the Archive Disc discussion Yasumori played a CD that was pressed in 1982 (52nd Street, Billy Joel album) on his current generation laptop to show the inherent downward compatibility in optical disc technology.

In 1980 IBM 3480 disk drives were refrigerator sized, multi $10K devices, and held 2.3GB. As far as I know there aren’t any of these still in operation. And IBM/STK tape was reel to reel and took up a whole rack. There may be a few of these devices still operating these days but not many.  I still have a CD collection (but then I am a GreyBeard 🙂 that I still listen to occasionally.

IMG_4399The new Archive Disc includes:

  • More resilient media to high humidity, high temperature, salt water, and EMP and other magnetic disturbances. As proof, a BlueRay disk was submerged in sea water for 5 weeks and was still able to be read. Data on BlueRay and the new Archive disk is recorded without using electro magnetics and is recorded in a very stable oxide recording material layer. They project that the new Archive disc has a media life of 50 years at 50C and 1000 years at 25C under high humidity conditions.
  • Dual sided, triple layered which uses land and groove recording to provide 300GB of data storage. BlueRay also uses a land and groove disk format but only records on the land portion of the disc. Track pitch for BlueRay is 320nm whereas for the Archive disc it’s only 225nm.
  • Data transfer speeds of 90MB/sec with two optical heads, one per side. Each head can read/write data at 45MB/sec. They project double or quadrouple this data transfer rate by using more pairs of optical heads .

They also presented a roadmap for a 2nd gen 500GB and 3rd gen 1TB Archive disc using higher linear density changes and better signal processing technology.

Cold storage is starting to get some more interest these days what with all the power consumption going into today’s data centers and the never ending data tsunami. Archive and BluRay optical storage consume no power at rest and only consume power when mounting/dismounting and reading/writing/spinning. Also with optical discs imperviousness to high temp and humidity, optical storage could be stored outside of air conditioned data centers.

The Storage Revolution

The final presentation of interest to me was by Andrea Nelson from Intel. Intel has lately been focusing on helping partners and vendors provide more effective storage offerings. These aren’t storage solutions but rather storage hardware, components and software developed in collaboration with storage vendors and partners that make it easier for them to offer storage solutions using Intel hardware. One example of this collaboration is IBM hardware assist Real Time Compression available on new V7000 and FlashSystem V9000 storage hardware.

As the world turns to software defined storage, Intel wants those solutions to make use of their hardware. (Although, at the show I heard from one another new SDS vendor that was planning to use X86 as well as ARM servers).

Intel has:

  • QuickAssist Acceleration technology – such as hardware assist data compression,
  • Storage Acceleration software libraries – open source erasure coding and other low-level compute intensive functions, and
  • Cache Acceleration software – uses Intel SSDs as a data cache for storage applications.

There wasn’t of a technical description of these capabilities as in other DSI sessions but with the industry moving more and more to SDS, Intel’s got a vested interest in seeing it be implemented on their hardware.


That’s about it. I sat in on quite a number of other sessions but nothing else stuck out as significant or interesting to me as these threes sessions.


Intel acquires InfiniBand fabric technology from Qlogic

Isilon Packaging by ChrisDag (cc) (from Flickr)”][InfiniBand interconnected] Isilon Packaging by ChrisDag (cc) (from Flickr)Intel announced today that they are going to acquire the InfiniBand (IB) fabric technology business from Qlogic.

From many analyst’s perspective, IB is one of the only technologies out there that can efficiently interconnect a cluster of commodity servers into a supercomputing system.

What’s InfiniBand?

Recall that IB is one of three reigning data center fabric technologies available today which include 10GbE, and 16 Gb/s FC.  IB is currently available in DDR, QDR and FDR modes of operation, that is 5Gb/s, 10Gb/s or 14Gb/s, respectively per single lane, according to the IB update (see IB trade association (IBTA) technology update).  Systems can aggregate multiple IB lanes in units of 4 or 12 paths (see wikipedia IB article), such that an IB QDRx4 supports 40Gb/s and a IB FDRx4 currently supports 56Gb/s.

The IBTA pitch cited above showed that IB is the most widely used interface for the top supercomputing systems and supports the most power efficient interconnect available (although how that’s calculated is not described).

Where else does IB make sense?

One thing IB has going for it is low latency through the use of RDMA or remote direct memory access.  That same report says that an SSD directly connected through a FC takes about ~45 μsec to do a read whereas the same SSD directly connected through IB using RDMA would only take ~26 μsec.

However, RDMA technology is now also coming out on 10GbE through RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE, pronounced “rocky”).  But ITBA claims that IB RDMA has a 0.6 μsec latency and the RoCE has a 1.3 μsec.  Although at these speed, 0.7 μsec doesn’t seem to be a big thing, it doubles the latency.

Nonetheless, Intel’s purchase is an interesting play.  I know that Intel is focusing on supporting an ExaFLOP HPC computing environment by 2018 (see their release).  But IB is already a pretty active technology in the HPC community already and doesn’t seem to need their support.

In addition, IB has been gradually making inroads into enterprise data centers via storage products like the Oracle Exadata Storage Server using the 40 Gb/s IB QDRx4 interconnects.  There are a number of other storage products out that use IB as well from EMC IsilonSGI, Voltaire, and others.

Of course where IB can mostly be found today is in computer to computer interconnects and just about every server vendor out today, including Dell, HP, IBM, and Oracle support IB interconnects on at least some of their products.

Whose left standing?

With Qlogic out I guess this leaves Cisco (de-emphasized lately), Flextronix, Mellanox, and Intel as the only companies that supply IB switches. Mellanox, Intel (from Qlogic) and Voltaire supply the HCA (host channel adapter) cards which provide the server interface to the switched IB network.

Probably a logical choice for Intel to go after some of this technology just to keep it moving forward and if they want to be seriously involved in the network business.

IB use in Big Data?

On the other hand, it’s possible that Hadoop and other big data applications could conceivably make use of IB speeds and as these are mainly vast clusters of commodity systems it would be a logical choice.

There is some interesting research on the advantages of IB in HDFS (Hadoop) system environments (see Can high performance interconnects boost Hadoop distributed file system performance) out of Ohio State University.  This research essentially says that Hadoop HDFS can perform much better when you combine IB with IPoIB (IP over IB, see OpenFabrics Alliance article) and SSDs.  But SSDs alone do not provide as much benefit.   (Although my reading of the performance charts seems to indicate it’s not that much better than 10GbE with TOE?).

It’s possible other Big data analytics engines are considering using IB as well.  It would seem to be a logical choice if you had even more control over the software stack.




New wireless technology augmenting data center cabling

1906 Patent for Wireless Telegraphy by Wesley Fryer (cc) (from Flickr)
1906 Patent for Wireless Telegraphy by Wesley Fryer (cc) (from Flickr)

I read a report today in Technology Review about how Bouncing data would speed up data centers, which talked about using wireless technology and special ceiling tiles to create dedicated data links between servers.  The wireless signal was in the 60Ghz range and would yield something on the order of couple of Gb per second.

The cable mess

Wireless could solve a problem evident to anyone that has looked under data center floor tiles today – cabling.  Underneath our data centers today there is a spaghetti-like labyrinth of cables connecting servers to switches to storage and back again.  The amount of cables underneath some data centers is so deep and impenetrable that some shops don’t even try to extract old cables when replacing equipment just leaving them in place and layering on new ones as the need arises.

Bouncing data around a data center

The nice thing about the new wireless technology is that you can easily set up a link between two servers (or servers and switches) by just properly positioning antenna and ceiling tiles, without needing any cables.  However, in order to increase bandwidth and reduce interference the signal has to be narrowly focused which makes the technology point-to-point, requiring line of sight between the end points.   But with signal bouncing ceiling tiles, a “line-of-sight” pathway could readily be created around the data center.

This could easily be accomplished by different shaped ceiling tiles such as pyramids, flat panels, or other geometric configurations that would guide the radio signal to the correct transceiver.

I see it all now, the data center of the future would have its ceiling studded with geometrical figures protruding below the tiles, providing wave guides for wireless data paths, routing the signals around obstacles to its final destination.

Probably other questions remain.

  • It appears the technology can only support 4 channels per stream.  Which means it might not scale up to much beyond current speeds.
  • Electromagnetic radiation is something most IT equipment tries to eliminate rather than transmit.  Having something generate and receive radio waves in a data center may require different equipment regulations and having those types of signals bouncing around a data center may make proper shielding more of a concern..
  • Signaling interference is a real problem which might make routing these signals even more of a problem than routing cables.  Which is why I believe they need  some sort of multi-directional wireless switching equipment might help.

In the report, there wasn’t any discussion as to the energy costs of the wireless technology and that may be another issue to consider. However, any reduction in cabling can only help IT labor costs which are a major factor in today’s data center economics.


It’s just in investigation stages now but Intel, IBM and others are certainly thinking about how wireless technology could help the data centers of tomorrow reduce costs, clutter and cables.

All this gives a whole new meaning to top of rack switching.


Why Open-FCoE is important

FCoE Frame Format (from Wikipedia,
FCoE Frame Format (from Wikipedia,

I don’t know much about O/S drivers but I do know lots about storage interfaces. One thing that’s apparent from yesterday’s announcement from Intel is that Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) has taken another big leap forward.

Chad Sakac’s chart of FC vs. Ethernet target unit shipments (meaning, storage interface types, I think) clearly indicate a transition to ethernet is taking place in the storage industry today. Of course Ethernet targets can be used for NFS, CIFS, Object storage, iSCSI and FCoE so this doesn’t necessarily mean that FCoE is winning the game, just yet.

WikiBon did a great post on FCoE market dynamics as well.

The advantage of FC, and iSCSI for that matter, is that every server, every OS, and just about every storage vendor in the world supports them. Also there are plethera of economical, fabric switches available from multiple vendors that can support multi-port switching with high bandwidth. And there many support matrixes, identifying server-HBAs, O/S drivers for those HBA’s and compatible storage products to insure compatibility. So there is no real problem (other than wading thru the support matrixes) to implementing either one of these storage protocols.

Enter Open-FCoE, the upstart

What’s missing from 10GBE FCoE is perhaps a really cheap solution, one that was universally available, using commodity parts and could be had for next to nothing. The new Open-FCoE drivers together with the Intels x520 10GBE NIC has the potential to answer that need.

But what is it? Essentially Intel’s Open-FCoE is an O/S driver for Windows and Linux and a 10GBE NIC hardware from Intel. It’s unclear whether Intel’s Open-FCoE driver is a derivative of the’s Linux driver or not but either driver works to perform some of the FCoE specialized functions in software rather than hardware as done by CNA cards available from other vendors. Using server processing MIPS rather than ASIC processing capabilities should make FCoE adoption in the long run, even cheaper.

What about performance?

The proof of this will be in benchmark results but it’s quite possible to be a non-issue. Especially, if there is not a lot of extra processing involved in a FCoE transaction. For example, if Open-FCoE only takes let’s say 2-5% of server MIPS and bandwidth to perform the added FCoE frame processing then this might be in the noise for most standalone servers and would showup only minimally in storage benchmarks (which always use big, standalone servers).

Yes, but what about virtualization?

However real world, virtualized servers is another matter. I believe that virtualized servers generally demand more intensive I/O activity anyway and as one creates 5-10 VMs, ESX server, it’s almost guaranteed to have 5-10X the I/O happening. If each standalone VM requires 2-5% of a standalone processor to perform Open-FCoE processing, then it could easily represent 5-7 X 2-5% on a 10VM ESX server (assumes some optimization for virtualization, if virtualization degrades driver processing, it could be much worse), which would represent a serious burden.

Now these numbers are just guesses on my part but there is some price to pay for using host server MIPs for every FCoE frame and it does multiply for use with virtualized servers, that much I can guarantee you.

But the (storage) world is better now

Nonetheless, I must applaud Intel’s Open-FCoE thrust as it can open up a whole new potential market space that today’s CNAs maybe couldn’t touch. If it does that, it introduces low-end systems to the advantages of FCoE then as they grow moving their environments to real CNAs should be a relatively painless transition. And this is where the real advantage lies, getting smaller data centers on the right path early in life will make any subsequent adoption of hardware accelerated capabilities much easier.

But is it really open?

One problem I am having with the Intel announcement is the lack of other NIC vendors jumping in. In my mind, it can’t really be “open” until any 10GBE NIC can support it.

Which brings us back to I checked their website and could see no listing for a Windows driver and there was no NIC compatibility list. So, I am guessing their work has nothing to do with Intel’s driver, at least as presently defined – too bad

However, when Open-FCoE is really supported by any 10GB NIC, then the economies of scale can take off and it could really represent a low-end cost point for storage infrastructure.

Unclear to me what Intel has special in their x520 NIC to support Open-FCoE (maybe some TOE H/W with other special sauce) but anything special needs to be defined and standardized to allow broader adoption by other Vendors. Then and only then will Open-FCoE reach it’s full potential.


So great for Intel, but it could be even better if a standardized definition of an “Open-FCoE NIC” were available, so other NIC manufacturers could readily adopt it.