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Redefining Networking for IP Storage

By Sean Ong, Country Manager, Brocade Malaysia

As business critical workloads doubles nearly every two years – driven by virtualization and big data analytics – storage requirements have sky-rocketed and are now measured in petabytes instead of terabytes. Although organisations are still relying on Fibre Channel for their mission-critical applications, they are also turning to IP Storage like iSCSI and NAS for their business applications due to fact that they can be deployed more quickly and easily.

A very common way of using IP Storage is to leverage the existing data network for this purpose. But shared networks simply cannot handle the growth of business-critical workloads on IP storage as virtualization, storage capacity, and the adoption of new storage technologies like flash continue to grow.

Application, storage and virtualization companies are starting to recommend, and enterprises have experienced for themselves, that the deployment of a separate network dedicated to IP Storage in the data centre is the best option to achieve greater reliability and more deterministic infrastructure for IP Storage.

To successfully leverage IP Storage for business-critical applications, the following need to be considered:

  1. Achieve service level agreements for business-critical applications running on ultra-low latency solid state drives,
  2. Gain disaster recovery solutions that deliver local replication performance over long distances, and
  3. Benefit from unified management of IP and Fibre Channel storage networking.

These storage networks need to be based on flexible, open network architectures that deliver a simplified infrastructure and help fulfill the promise of IDC’s Third Platform compute model, with low, deterministic latency, guaranteed delivery, a smaller administrative domain that is easier to troubleshoot, fewer configuration compromises, better fault isolation, and less complexity to upgrade and maintain.

Dedicated Networks for IP Storage

To achieve the required SLA for business-critical applications and to take better advantage of the read and write characteristics of flash storage, co-mingling of IP storage traffic with other data traffic like email, video, web and voice traffic in the same network will defeat those objectives and SLAs.

The impact is that all the other data traffic will make the network highly unpredictable and difficult to troubleshoot should there be IP storage issues. With a dedicated network for IP  storage, business-critical service level agreements can be addressed –particularly with resilient, high-performance Ethernet fabric, in Brocade’s view, to deliver predictable performance and high resiliency for business-critical applications.

Ethernet Fabrics allow for easy provisioning and operations of the IP storage network due to built-in automation capabilities, . resulting in minimal configuration and intervention as multiple switches in a fabric can be configured and managed as a single logical element. Within a Fabric, multi-pathing between switches provide storage-class resiliency with non-disruptive failover after a path or link failure.

IP Storage Extension for Disaster Recovery

A key concern with IP storage is with disaster recovery and the ability to provide local replication performance over long distances between geographically-distributed data centres – with strong encryption – will alleviate this concern. With SAN Extension switches, not only can enterprises meet the disaster recover requirement, but  up to 50 times more data that can be moved to meet recovery objectives.

In addition, WAN links can be maximized through protocol optimization technology, and downtime can be minimized to overcome failure of WAN links, latency, packet loss and security challenges. Compared to using a native replication application, it is possible to now deliver 320 megabytes per second of replication data over long distances with 25 milliseconds latency and 0.1% packet loss.

Unified Storage Network Management

To gain unprecedented network visibility and insight across the storage network, unified network management allows monitoring of IP and Fibre Channel health and performance from a single dashboard, simplifying network monitoring and providing alerts and integrating network data into VMware vRealize to maximize VM performance and availability. These capabilities allow pre-validation and troubleshooting of the physical infrastructure to streamline deployment.

With the appropriate technology, IP storage can visualise network health and performance, increase instrumentation and granularity for real-time visibility and actionable insights, and simplify monitoring with the deployment of pre-defined policies, rules and actions.

By automatically detecting and recovering from errors, providing early warning of potential problems and minimising downtime with faster troubleshooting, common network problems are reduced and availability is increased.


In conclusion, for larger environments, there are compelling advantages to having a separate physical network for IP storage traffic, including low, deterministic latency, guaranteed delivery, a smaller administrative domain -which is easier to troubleshoot, fewer configuration compromises, better fault isolation, and less complexity to upgrade and maintain.

Simplifying the data centre network design by using a dedicated IP network for storage pays dividends. This is why leading application vendors recommend this as a design best practice.


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