How cloud DCs can boost automation and maximize performance

Virtualization and cloud computing have sped up IT service provisioning and delivery to satisfy a growing generation of users raised on broadband connections and having little patience for waiting. Software-defined network technologies, which add a layer of automation to virtualized infrastructure, are set to raise the bar further. They promise even higher performance and increased service capabilities.

“The expectation of response has changed,” says Shaun Walsh, senior vice president of Corporate Development and Marketing at Emulex. “There is a change in application latency. At every level of the data center, people want applications to run faster, more efficiently and more predictably. We really are entering that era where infrastructure can dynamically change.”

To achieve an effective transition to a modern infrastructure,  “server virtualization has been [a top priority] for the last four or five years,” says Bob Laliberte, senior analyst from Enterprise Strategy Group. “What we’re seeing now are organizations maturing their server virtualization, driving it wider into production, driving up virtual machine (VM) densities and so forth. That’s leading to cloud [adoption] as well.”

Data center in 2017

Indeed, the recent Cisco Global Cloud Index forecasts that over two-thirds of data center traffic will be cloud traffic by 2017. By then, nearly two-thirds of all workloads will be processed in cloud data centers.

Overall data center traffic will increase, supported by the growth of 10GbE and higher-speed data center switching technologies. Crehan Research projects 40GbE and 100GbE technologies to comprise the majority of data switching revenues by 2017. By then, nearly one-third of data center switch shipments will be 40GbE, and 10GbE will be the most popular switch port connection.

In data center transformation, Gartner predicts that “by 2017, 25% of Global 2000 e-commerce applications will be supported by a web-scale IT approach … that delivers the capabilities of large cloud services providers within an enterprise IT setting”. In other words, enterprises will try to emulate the performance and efficiency of data centers operated by service providers such as Amazon and Google.

The demands on cloud data centers

However, these trends place unprecedented demands on the network, storage and compute infrastructure. An inevitable outcome will be greater reliance on standardization and automation in cloud data centers.

Enterprises transforming their data centers to rival those of successful cloud service providers seek self-service infrastructure, one that rapidly provisions services, facilitates dynamic workloads, and allows for multi-tenancy.

What’s needed is a high-performance network that is scalable and provides the right balance of bandwidth, throughput I/O operations per second (IOPS) and latency.

Optimize and scale

To help generate the benefits of virtualization and automation, Emulex’s OneConnect 10/40GbE Ethernet and converged network adapters support higher VM densities and secure hybrid clouds with Virtual Network Fabrics (VNFs) and Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) over Converged Ethernet (RoCE)-based low-latency architecture.

“The OCe14000 is the first card that was designed [for] a world where virtualization is the primary way of deploying servers,” Walsh says. “We are providing a new way to optimize the deployment of web-scale applications, virtualized environments and software-defined infrastructures, scaling performance in three dimensions – higher bandwidth, reduced latency and increased IOPS – to address the explosive growth of IP traffic and global storage.”

Bandwidth boost

In a 10GbE world, “faster doesn’t mean more bandwidth,” explains Walsh. “The question is how efficient you are in using that bandwidth. We’ve increased packet performance by a factor of four with the OCe14000. For standard applications, we’ve gotten 50% better latency and for storage, we’ve added 50% more IOPS.”

Further, an OCe14000 quad-port adapter makes higher density, bandwidth and IOPS possible in a smaller footprint. “Virtualization and efficiency drive power savings on a server,” says Walsh. “We can save up to 50W in the operations of a [10G-enabled Intel] Romley-class server.”

Low latency

RoCE reduces latency in search, database, financial and high transaction rate applications, accelerating application and storage through faster I/O operations, with support planned for Windows Server SMB Direct and Linux NFS protocols. It also makes possible microsecond-class latency performance for solid state disk access, database clusters, clustered file systems and Hyper-V live migration.

Since RoCE requires fewer servers, eliminates cabling and improves application performance, Ethernet-based data centers stand to save, at least on energy consumption and real estate.

“The [OCe14000’s] single-chip quad-10GbE-port design, hardware-based FCoE and iSCSI support, low latency and RoCE features enable us to provide our customers with microsecond-class latency performance at lower cost than 40GbE, and consolidate multiple networking services on a single high-speed Ethernet adapter platform for lower networking TCO,” says Peter Liu, the chief architect of Huawei IT hardware.

High scalability

To meet bandwidth and scalability demands of enterprise applications, cloud data centers need more scalable virtualization through enhanced Single-Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV), NIC port partitioning, and VNF. These technologies facilitate VM mobility and massive scaling of Layer 2 subnets inside private or hybrid cloud infrastructures.

“What it boils down to is you can run more VMs and more NICs per server because we use less CPU resources and because we offload from the CPU and memory, we give very efficient delivery and high performance,” Walsh says. “That means you can scale the number of virtual NICs in line with the number of VMs on your server.”

“Emulex is delivering a new generation of 10/40GbE controllers and adapters to better enable organizations to meet that demand for unprecedented scale, performance and efficiency in the data center,” Laliberte notes.