With the proliferation of massive data centers, equipment density and power consumption are more critical than ever. At the same time cloud computing and server virtualization are driving the need for more uniform designs than traditional three-tier data-center architectures offer. The concept of network convergence around 10Gb Ethernet has been envisioned for a long time.
In the traditional data center structure, servers are separated into web, application and database tiers. These tiers connect with each other using Ethernet, typically 10Gb Ethernet for new installations. For storage, the web and application tiers typically use file storage provided by network-attached storage (NAS) systems connected over Ethernet.
The database tier, or “back end,” has traditionally used block storage provided by a dedicated storage-area network (SAN) based on Fibre Channel. Database servers, therefore, have required both FC HBAs connected to FC switches and NICs connected to the Ethernet LAN. In addition, clustered databases and other parallel-processing applications often require a dedicated low-latency interconnect, adding yet another adapter and switch. Clearly, installing, operating, maintaining, and managing as many as three separate networks within the data center is grossly inefficient.
Chelsio has created a 10Gb unified wire that can run unmodified LAN, SAN and cluster traffic simultaneously at wire speed. This Unified Wire adapter is made possible by the high bandwidth and low latency of 10GbE combined with storage (iSCSI) and cluster (iWARP) protocols operating over TCP/IP. In parallel, operating systems and hypervisors have incorporated native support for iSCSI and database applications are now supporting file-based storage protocols such as NFS as an alternative to SANs. Over the longer term, these trends and continued technology development by Chelsio will make homogeneous data-center networks a reality.
There is a large installed base of Fibre Channel SANs, which must be accommodated by the evolving data-center network. Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) provides a transition path from legacy SANs to converged networks. Chelsio now supports fully offloaded FCoE with its recently announced Terminator 4 ASIC.