Feeds

QLogic: Software FCoE can't cut it

Intel indifference

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Interview What does a HW Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) vendor think of Intel's software FCoE stack? We asked QLogic's Host Solutions Group through Henrik Hansen, its European marketing director.

Intel has released an openly available Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) software stack so users can send and receive messages to Fibre Channel access storage systems without having to use FCoE converged network adapters (CNAs), specialised Ethernet interface cards with FCoE functions added.

The CNA supplier thinking is, generally, that servers should run applications and offload storage I/O processing to peripheral cards.

So El Reg asked Hansen about QLogic's position on Intel's SW FCoE. We've edited the replies to bring out what we think are the essential points. The resulting Q&A session has some QLogic marketing puffery in it but the general message is clear enough: software FCoE can’t cut it in the data centre.

El Reg: What are the main differences between Intel's open source FCoE software used on a standard Ethernet NIC and QLogic's FCoE-capable CNA?

Henrik Hansen: Host systems using Intel or NICs running FCoE software initiators will be limited in scalability as storage workload processing by the CPU can command up to 70 per cent of the CPU resources, leaving little for application processing or for virtual machines.

QLOgic HW vs SW FCoE chart

A CNA on the other hand offloads FCoE to the adapter and requires between 4-10 per cent of the CPU to process the same storage workloads. FCoE software initiators have limited O/S support (currently Linux only), with Microsoft not yet not commenting on a support time frame, and issues within the way Hypervisors and the O/S exchange protocol processing. The current implementation of SW initiators will not work. Changes must first be made in the SW architecture for hypervisor support.

SW initiators will require years of development and real world deployment before they are ready for enterprise-wide storage deployments: Intel currently only has five vendors qualified while QLogic has over 80 qualified vendors with thousands of products.

We have support for OEM partitioning (HPs Flex-10, IBM's Virtual Fabric Adapter and QLogic’s own, switch-agnostic NPAR (with embedded layer 2 switching)) including QoS to segment networks and improve application performance compared to Intel’s limited VLAN partitioning.

El Reg: The HW CNA vendors say they offer much better management facilities as well. Moving on, what effect do you think Intel's FCOE software will have on the storage networking market?

Henrik Hansen: QLogic does not believe data centre administrators will trust their enterprise storage application to an unproven technology that is receiving limited endorsment by storage manufactures. It will take many years for [Intel's SW FCoE to] receive pervasive storage qualification, OS and hypervisor support. With most of the OEMs supporting proven storage driver stacks, it will in fact stall acceptance of S/W initiators.

El Reg: With multi-core X86 processors do you really need a dedicated FCoE engine on a CNA instead of using a standard Ethernet NIC?

Henrik Hansen: Virtual Machine (VM) density continues to grow, and this will have a material effect on servers attempting to run software initiators and VM’s simultaneously. In order to efficiently scale these servers, CPU [cycles] must be conserved for the hypervisors, and not used for processing storage I/O.

El Reg: As there are now more software iSCSI initiators than iSCSI-capable Ethernet interface card initiators, won't the FCOE market follow iSCSI, with the majority of FC ports on servers being driven by software FCoE code stacks and not CNAs?

Henrik Hansen: iSCSI initiators have mainly been adopted by small to medium business (SMB) where enterprise reliability is not as much of a concern as it is within enterprise storage market.

A new dichotomy is occurring within the data centre; this is being driven by virtualisation and convergence onto one wire. Implementing both with an FCoE software initiator will starve the CPU and limit the scalability of virtual machines as well as throughput requirements for storage-demanding applications.

In order to scale efficiently within this new dichotomy, CPU resource will be better used serving VMs and applications than processing of I/O.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Next page: Summing up

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.