Brocade just released new X6 FC Directors, in 8- and 4-slot chassis, for Gen 6 FC networks.
New Brocade X6 Director Family hardware
With the emergence of the all-flash enterprise data center, there has been an insatiable demand for IO responsiveness and more bandwidth that Gen 6 FC storage networking can provide with up to 32 Gbps data transfers. The new director family fills out Brocade’s Gen6 FC family hardware and joins the G620 Gen 6 FC switch they released earlier this year. With the new director family, now one can outfit a whole data center with Gen 6 FC networking from server HBAs, to edge switches, to core directors, all providing 32 Gbps FC traffic.
- Brocade X6-8 Director – comes in a 14U rack unit that provides up to 8 director slots which support FC32-48 port or SX6 Extension (see below) blades. The X6-8 Director also includes 32 additional 128 Gbps Brocade UltraScale inter-chassis link (ICL) ports.
- Brocade X6-4 Director – comes in an 8U rack unit that offers up to 4 slots which support FC32-48 port or SX6 Extension blades and includes 16 additional 128 Gbps UltraScale ICL ports.
The Brocade SX6 Extension Blade is new and offers up to 80 Gbps FCIP traffic. The SX6 Extension blade has 16 32 Gbps FC ports, 16 1/10 GbE (WAN or LAN) ports and 2 40 GbE WAN ports. The Extension blades are used for storage replication services that would use FCIP over WAN or LAN to WAN networking links to mirror data across sites for business continuance/disaster recovery.
Brocade X6 Directors support better flash storage performance, providing up to 71% faster database queries (vs. 8 Gbps) and completing up to 4X more database queries (than 8 Gbps) over the same interval. According to the charts, Brocade showed on the call, 32 Gbps FC provided ~50% faster database queries than 16 Gbps FC.
The 128 Gbps ICL ports implement Brocade proprietary technology and are intended for use as a director-to-director fabric connection. Brocade ICL do not use the Gen 6 4 X 32 (128) Gbps parallel offering.
New Brocade X6 Director Family functionality
Brocade identified a couple of new innovations associated with the new director software including a finer grained Fabric Vision solution called IO Insight and together with VM Insight when available, a Brocade & HBA solution, will be able to monitor IO at the VM level.
With IO Insight, IT staff can monitor SCSI read/write response times, provide alerts on IO outliers and better identify storage network congestion points. IO Insight is non-disruptive functionality that monitors read/write commands over the storage network that provides multiple statistics and alerts to track this IO activity.
IO Insight is also supported by Brocade AMP (Analytics Monitoring Platform) which broadens IO monitoring to all SCSI commands, provides alerts for all host, fabric & IO outliers, automates LUN/IO flow learning and offers direct fabric latency monitoring.
VM Insight is a future capability that provides all IO Insight capabilities at the VM level for VMware. VM Insight depends on a new standards-based VM tagging of FC traffic done at the host/server and is expected to be available toward the end of the year. With VM Insight, admins will be able to identify, baseline, monitor and set threshold/alerts on VM read/write performance, end-to-end across the storage network. To use VM Insight you must have Gen 6 HBA’s with VM Insight support from Emulex-Broadcom or QLogic.
One other functional enhancement discussed during the call was support for NVMe over Fabric. NVMe activity outside the server environment will need a dedicated, sophisticated, high-speed storage network, all of which Gen 6 FC can provide. Gen 6 HBAs can support NVMe over Fabric with a code change (changing SCSI command set to NVMe command set). Brocade’s Gen 5 & Gen 6 switches and directors have already demonstrated support for the NVMe command set, but Gen 6 fabric hardware supports IO Insight like monitoring of NVMe read/write activity.
Gen 6 FC hardware has been rolling out over this past year or so, with HBAs, switches and now Brocade X6-8 & -4 Directors being the last piece of the ecosystem. Large enterprises can now fully implementation Gen 6 FC fabric across their data center floor. All flash arrays taking over primary data IO can take advantage of the better responsiveness and faster throughput of Gen 6 FC.
We understand flash storage’s need for lower latency and higher throughput but requirements for better responsiveness and more bandwidth become even more acute with NVMe SSD storage. Moreover, the near future introduction of storage class memories (SCM), like 3D XPoint from Intel-Micron, that use NVMe and will be 100X faster than NAND SSDs. For SCM SSDs that make use of NVMe over Fabric, even Gen 6 FC may not be fast enough, luckily Gen 7 is scheduled for a 2019 GA.
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Silverton Consulting, Inc., is a U.S.-based Storage, Strategy & Systems consulting firm offering products and services to the data storage community.