Next Steps for the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Standard
All over the world, increasing bandwidth requirements and the growth of enterprise applications have led to a need for server virtualization, and the IEEE standard for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) has been a way to get there. IEEE Standard 802.3ae- 2002 was ratified eight years ago. Following the ratification of the standard, many companies began deploying 10GbE in their corporate backbones, data centers, and server farms to support high-bandwidth applications. In the eight years following, improvements in technology, price and performance have broadened the standard’s utility beyond enterprise data centers to midmarket networks.
According to a recent white paper by Netgear entitled, “10 Things to Know Before Deploying 10 Gigabit Ethernet,” midmarket companies are in the process of optimizing their data centers and server rooms by consolidating servers to free up space, power, and management overhead. They’ve done this, in part, through server virtualization.
“Server virtualization relies heavily on networking and storage,” according to the white paper’s authors. “Virtual machines grow and require larger amounts of storage than one physical server can provide. Network attached storage (NAS) or storage area networks (SANs) provide additional, dedicated storage for virtual machines. Connectivity between servers and storage must be fast to avoid bottlenecks. 10GbE provides the fastest interconnectivity for virtualized environments.”
There are three types of storage in a network, according to Netgear: direct-attached storage (DAS), NAS, and SAN. Each has its advantages, but SAN is emerging as the most flexible and scalable solution for data centers and high-density computing applications. The main drawback to SAN has been the expense and specially trained staff necessary for installing and maintaining the Fibre Channel (FC) interconnect fabric. Still, however, SANs with Fibre Channel have become well established in large enterprises.
“A new standard, the Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI), is making 10 Gigabit Ethernet an attractive, alternative interconnect fabric for SAN applications,” according to the white paper’s authors. “iSCSI is an extension of the SCSI protocol used for block transfers in most storage devices and Fibre Channel. The Internet extension defines protocols for extending block transfers over IP, allowing standard Ethernet infrastructure to be used as a SAN fabric. Basic iSCSI is supported in most operating systems today.”
The latest iSCSI capabilities allow 10 Gigabit Ethernet to compare very favorably to Fibre Channel as a SAN interconnect fabric:
Reduced equipment and management costs. 10GbE networking components are less expensive than highly specialized Fibre Channel components and do not require a specialized skill set for installation and management.
Enhanced server management. iSCSI remote boot eliminates booting each server from its own direct-attached disk. Instead, servers can boot from an operating system image on the SAN. This is particularly advantageous for using diskless servers in rack-mount or blade server applications.
Improved disaster recovery. All information on a local SAN — including boot information, operating system images, applications, and data—can be duplicated on a remote SAN for quick and complete disaster recovery
High performance. Even transactional virtual machines, such as databases, can run over 10 Gigabit Ethernet and iSCSI SAN, without compromising performance.
For more information, including network design best practices and cabling choices, see Netgear’s white paper.
Edited by Maurice Nagle