Emulex Gets More Intelligent About Storage

Storage vendor’s recipe for intelligent SANs calls for a dose of hardware acceleration and decoupling management overhead from data transport.
Posted April 27, 2007
By

Drew Robb

Drew Robb


It’s ironic how the subject of storage intelligence has elicited so many half-baked announcements from competing vendors. One says the intelligence is best placed in the switch, another says to put it in the network, and another says it should be within the disk array. Yet it’s obvious that when the dust settles, intelligence will eventually be built into all aspects of the SAN.

In the meantime, storage vendors continue to highlight the latest intelligent characteristics of their wares – and it’s all good as far as end users are concerned. Emulex Corp. of Costa Mesa, CA, for example, offers its Model 765 Intelligent Services Platform for SAN-based storage virtualization.

“The Model 765 offers significant improvements in scalability and performance,” says Amar Kapadia, senior director of intelligent networks at Emulex. “It achieves this by separating data movement functions from management functions and by using intelligent platforms for hardware accelerated data movement.”

This new Emulex product, he says, is like an appliance but is more intelligent. It provides virtualization to facilitate such capabilities as storage pooling, online data migration, cloning, snapshots, mirroring and volume migration.

Model 765 is a 1U system that can support up to 1.2 million IOPS and 1400 MB/s of aggregate throughput. It has four FC ports and uses the Emulex AV150 intelligent processor. Based on technology acquired last year from Aarohi, it sits in the SAN next to the switch.

“There was a need to simplify storage management to enable more efficient storage capacity planning, tiered heterogeneous storage, more effective disaster recovery, non-disruptive volume migration, zero-impact backup, rapid recovery and replication across heterogeneous arrays,” says Amar Kapadia, senior director of intelligent networks at Emulex. “Fortunately, SAN-based storage management applications have evolved to address these requirements.”

New Approach

Traditional storage management applications, says Kapadia, use a software-only solution and use a general purpose processor. Emulex, on the other hand, offers its split-path architecture. By separating the control path from the data path, it speeds up information delivery.

How? The control path is addressed using a general purpose chip (and sometimes can be on-chip), whereas the data path is handled separately and has the benefit of added hardware acceleration provided by a 20 Gbps Application Processing Engine. Emulex manufactures the Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) that incorporates this split path system.

According to Kapadia, the cost to the end user will be below $10,000, which he says is cheaper than alternative approaches.

“The price of intelligent switches is dramatically higher than Model 765,” says Kapadia.

Emulex Model 765 comes with FabricStream software. This software enables the vendor to sell the technology in three versions: with a chip, a motherboard or as a complete system.

LSI Logic Corp. of Milpitas, CA, is the first to step forward and integrate it into the LSI StorageAge Storage Virtualization Manager (SVM) appliance. SVM extends SAN-based services in VMware and other virtualized server and clustered environments. LSI has certified what is known now as the Model 765-S and is now selling it worldwide.

“The Emulex Model 765-S Intelligent Services Platform consolidates host agents, and provides hardware acceleration for multiView, multiCopy, multiMigrate, and multiMirror,” says Kapadia. “In addition, it supports VMware Virtual Server environments and active-active clustered environments for high performance at an attractive price point.”

He also points out that the 4 ports of the 765-S allow mid-range environments to save switch ports. Further, high availability can be obtained as multiple units can be tied together. In terms of interoperability, Kapadia says it functions with all fabrics.

Higher Intelligence

Emulex, of course, feels its approach to intelligence is superior to those of IBM or FalconStor which don’t offer a split-path design. Model 765, then, enables the organization to scale the SAN better through channeling data movement functions away from management functions. Performance, too, is enhanced via the ASIC’s built in hardware acceleration. Thus data movement is greatly increased. Redundancy and fault tolerance is also built in to this design: for example, one control-path can manage multiple redundant data-paths. And it has full compatibility with multi-pathing in the SAN.

“By their very nature, centralized deployments, fabric-based storage applications and services tend to demand the highest levels of performance and scalability,” says Taufik Ma, vice president of marketing, intelligent network products at Emulex. “The Model 765 platform was built from the ground up to address these requirements. The combination of a 20 Gbps processing engine, unique data streaming architecture and high integration supports advanced functionality for storage virtualization while protecting end-user investments.”

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.






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