Insights

The new way to move high volume data

To move data traffic from one system to another you need specific structures, currently fibre channel or RoCE. Now, however, a third way is about to hit the market; NVMe over TCP. The NVMe Work Group recently ratified the NVMe/TCP standard and as TCP is already in place in Ethernet deployments, this will see a fast uptake.

IP is the mechanism that Ethernet uses to send data from one system to another across the globe. But if something goes wrong along the route, IP will just drop the packets. TCP is the mechanism that guarantees delivery. It makes IP reliable.

TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) does this by adding fault tolerance and automatic routing around outages to Ethernet systems. It popularises low latency transfer of high volume data packets and is being pioneered by Solarflare.

“While it’s no faster or cheaper than fibre or RoCE,” said Exertis Hammer’s Chris Wintle, “it’s easier as it uses a standard Ethernet protocol that’s already deployed on most networks.”

As Ethernet networks move from 10GbE to 25GbE and on to 100GbE, 400GbE and beyond, storage traffic can easily use these networks without any additional changes or effort. TCP means that storage servers can quickly scale to 100GbE connections while compute servers can remain unchanged at 25GbE.

All the networking vendors including Broadcom, Intel, Mellanox, QLogic and Solaflare will support the TCP standard.

Software defined everything…

It started with virtualisation and software-defined servers, followed by software-defined storage then networking. Here David Wills, senior channel marketing manager, EMEA for Mellanox explores the concept of a wider, holistic software-defined enterprise.

 

Historically, software and its use may have been considered transactional; at the most basic level a means of completing a task or, simpler still, a tool. Today however, software - and the means by which it is enabled and delivered - is revolutionising organisations, industries and the world.

A software-defined enterprise is one which considers software utilisation as a strategic driver of business transformation and change. To achieve this, it adopts agile, disruptive technologies often enabled via a private or hybrid cloud. As well as offering significant savings in terms of resources, this approach also offers flexible and scalable solutions which can adapt to an organisation’s varying requirements.

A software-defined enterprise will itself become more agile as a result. The benefits from improved resource utilisation equally lend themselves to enhancing user experience and driving profitability. This means that IT will move from [often] being perceived as a cost-centre focused on support, to one considered as a source of innovation which adds value to an organisation.

As with any change-management project, there are many potential pitfalls. Costs can spiral, gains can be limited and let’s not forget that change is difficult and not guaranteed to solve all of an organisation’s problems. Therefore, it’s important to remain realistic, perform regular ‘checks and balances’ and dedicate sufficient resources to support investment.

The first step to becoming a true a software-defined enterprise is choosing an infrastructure which will be the backbone. Investigating the deployment of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is the precursor.

In a recent whitepaper published by Mellanox Technologies, SDN is defined as “a revolutionary approach to designing, building and operating networks that aims to deliver business agility in addition to lowering capital and operational costs through network abstraction, virtualisation and orchestration”.

Where the first wave of SDN deployment focuses on functionality, utilising the many innovations and enhancements in datacentre interconnect technologies to realise the vision of a truly software-defined enterprise, it’s necessary to consider the most efficient, high performance options available.

The whitepaper goes on to state that: “Conceptually, SDN decouples the control and data planes, and logically centralises network intelligence and control in software-based controllers that maintain a global view of the network. This enables more streamlined policy-driven external control and automation from applications, which ultimately enhances network programmability and simplifies network orchestration. As such, SDN-based design allows for highly elastic networks that can readily adapt to changing business needs.”

SDN can be deployed in a number of ways and Mellanox datacentre networking solutions provide the most comprehensive, flexible and efficient SDN support through end-to-end interconnect and associated software.

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Mellanox Spectrum switches have been created with software-defined networking and datacentre deployment in mind. When customers choose Mellanox they can decide whether to purchase the switch with Cumulus LINUX, the leading switch operating system from Cumulus Networks specifically designed for software-define networking.

Hammer provide SDN solutions from Mellanox, Cumulus Networks and Dell EMC.

* IDC is forecasting that software-defined storage solutions will generate worldwide revenues of over $16 Billion in 2021.

25G, 50G and 100G in the datacentre

Half of datacentre Ethernet switches will be 25GbE / 100GbE by 2021 according to Dell EMC.

Which may seem surprising, as 40 and 100Gbps Ethernet is already widely available. But the need for more cost-effective speed, specifically from servers in cloud datacentres, is behind the increasing interest in 25G.

Cabling is a similar cost as 10G, but runs at 2.5 times the performance. The 50G is half of the cost of 40G with a 25% increase in performance.

The expectation is that the largest cloud operators will shift to 100G Ethernet fabrics while cost-efficient 25G and 50G will remain the workhorses for the rest.

The 25G/ 50G Ethernet Consortium has made its 25G and 50G Ethernet specification open to all datacentre ecosystem vendors - royalty free. The standard should hasten the widespread deployment of 25G and 50G Ethernet ports that will coincide with the rollout of 100G Ethernet for cloud fabrics.

Getting more out of fibre optics

Anthony Clarkson, Service Provider Sales Manager, Europe, Middle East & Africa at ProLabs explains the concept of Wavelength Division Multiplexing

 

Before we get into the specifics of Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM), let’s start with a brief introduction to optical transmission; or light, as you may know it.

To send data down a fibre optic cable, we use lasers of different wavelengths (or colours). By switching the laser on and off, we can transfer 1s and 0s (data bits) from one end of a fibre to the other - and we can do this very quickly.

As deploying fibre and data switches is costly, we need to get the most out of the infrastructure by sending as many data bits as we can, as fast as possible, at the most economical cost - and we need to send more than one set of data bits down the same fibre at the same time.

 

Which brings us to WDM.

 

As sound behaves in the same way as light, to best explain this let’s look at it in the context of musical instruments. We send data bits from instrument to listener and we can increase the rate of data transfer by playing faster and/or by playing more than one note simultaneously.

Playing multiple notes at the same time is Wavelength Division Multiplexing. If I can play the piano with all 10 fingers, I can send 10 times the amount of data as using one finger. With optical fibre transmission, we can achieve the same increase in data bit transfer speeds by sending multiple different coloured light beams (i.e. of differing wavelengths) down the same fibre.

There are two main variants of WDM – Coarse (CWDM) and Dense (DWDM). The big difference between the two is how many different wavelengths (notes or colours) you can squeeze into the system.

If I strum all six strings on a guitar I am simultaneously playing six notes. There is a separation between each note and the listener can easily tell which notes are being played. This is coarse, or CWDM.

Being able to play every single note on every fret of the same guitar, at the same time, would be 120 notes in a similar overall range as before. Even though the notes are now closer together, they should still be individually distinguishable. This is dense, or DWDM.

In the optical fibre transmission system we use different colours of light alongside each other. In CWDM we can use up to 18 different colours and in DWDM this increases to around 160.

Think of CWDM as being major colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue etc), whereas DWDM would use many shades of colours (scarlet, pink, crimson, salmon, ruby, rust etc). The colours of light used in optical transmission are actually in the infra-red spectrum - not visible to the naked eye - so they are all in fact shades of infra-red!

 

Why do we need to use all these different colours, can’t we just send the data bits faster? The cost increases exponentially as you move to the faster speeds. With CWDM and DWDM I can send multiple 1Gb/s or 10Gb/s signals much more cost efficiently than sending one single larger data bit flow.

It’s time datacentres upgraded to 25GbE

According to IDC, growth in the global Ethernet switch market increased 7.8% in the third quarter of 2017 due in no small part to “rapid adoption of 25 Gigabit Ethernet top-of-rack switches for cloud and hyperscale datacentres.”

The arrival of 25GbE switches from the likes of Mellanox and Dell has revolutionised datacentre connectivity. Previous 10GbE switches are slow in comparison and even though ports could be aggregated to give 40GbE or even 100GbE speeds, that came at a cost.

IDC stated that 100GbE shipments grew more than six-fold, as enterprises deployed these higher-capacity switches.

Which would explain why there was a 27.7% decrease in 40GbE port shipments.

This all comes as no great surprise. This Hammer Connect Insight piece earlier in the year explained the cost, speed and capacity benefits of 25GbE switches. Back then we stated: “Improvements in server speeds has rendered 10Gb/s too slow. True, there already exists 40Gb/s adapters – but this super speed comes at a cost.

“Now, though, 25Gb/s solutions – with a compelling mix of high bandwidth, low power and low cost – are being offered by a range of vendors providing extra speed (2.5 times faster) for little extra cost.”

As this report from Dell and QLogic explains: “Deploying 25GbE networks also enables organisations to reduce significantly the required number of switches and cables — along with space, power and cooling — compared to similar bandwidth solutions using 10GbE and 40GbE technology. Considering the economics, it is no surprise that the move to 25GbE (and 50GbE) is accelerating.”

It states that industry analyst Dell’Oro predicts 25GbE will deliver a significant amount of Ethernet bandwidth by 2018.

Are you ready for 25GbE connectivity?

To find out how Hammer can help assess your needs and devise a networking solution right for you, speak to one of our connect specialists now.

Are you prepared for IT/telecoms convergence?

During our 25-plus years, Hammer has helped many partners take advantage of the fast and ongoing technological changes. This period of disruption shows no signs of weakening. In fact developments over the coming years are likely to have an even greater impact and offer even greater opportunities.

One next big disruptor will be 5G. This is not simply the next stage on the 3G, 4G journey of digital mobile connectivity. 5G will be a titanic leap. It promises to be 100 times faster, will see latency cut by a factor of five and be able to handle up to 1,000 times the volume of data compared to 4G.

5G will accelerate the convergence of IT and telecoms in the datacentre as it offers a significant opportunity for the telecoms industry to bring together digital transformation trends - software-defined networking, network function virtualisation and increasing amounts of automation and orchestration - in to a unified architecture.

So, all in all, a major boost to datacentres and real-time analytics, to social media and location-based web services and to digital crypto-currencies, for example. 5G is expected to be available by 2020 and will, most likely, make wired and wireless networks obsolete.

Hammer has positioned itself to ensure its channel partners can make the most of this huge opportunity. Two of our vendor partners are driving forces behind the technologies that will shape this coming together of telecommunications and IT within the datacentre: Dell EMC and Intel.

The advent of ‘smart everything’, and the intelligent end-to-end applications driven by 5G, will require infrastructures to become efficient and flexible. Together, Intel and Dell EMC are delivering solutions to enable this transformation and facilitate the smart revolution.

Hammer embraces such change and invests in our vendor portfolio to ensure both we and our partners, whether from IT or emerging from a traditional telco background, are well-placed to lead the way and take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity.

If you would like to understand where Hammer positions itself for business transformation and in particular the software-defined datacentre, please ask your account manager to arrange a visit from one of our business development specialists.