SDN vendor Plexxi has integrated its Affinity Networking technology with solid-state storage array vendor SolidFire so users can simultaneously optimize network flows and apply Quality of Service to storage traffic on a converged network.
SolidFire specializes in delivering Quality of service (QoS) on the IOPS side of its distributed, solid-state disk (SSD) arrays, but that only "speaks to the read-write times on the storage piece," said Mat Mathews, co-founder and vice president of product management for Plexxi. "The other half of the equation is the transport of that traffic across the network."
Plexxi and SolidFire's SDN-storage integration is at the application programming interface (API) level. Plexxi and SolidFire engineers connected their northbound APIs within five hours -- work that customers could do themselves, Mathews said. But Plexxi and SolidFire wanted to create an integration that was easily applied across all their joint customers. Network operators can use Plexxi's SDN controller integration with orchestration and virtualization management systems to automatically configure network connectivity and establish QoS for iSCSI storage traffic generated by SolidFire arrays.
"Plexxi can understand what the requirements are for different levels of storage capabilities and make sure the transport across the network meets those needs, as well," Mathews said.
With Plexxi's controller able to define routes and QoS for iSCSI traffic, customers will be able to run storage and data traffic on one converged network, Mathews said.
"The point of iSCSI was to make the transport piece relatively easy over existing infrastructure," he said. "But customers are forced to have two infrastructures -- one for IP-based storage traffic and the other for the rest of the data traffic. We can put all that traffic on a single infrastructure, but segregate the infrastructure [logically] so that iSCSI can get the appropriate priority as necessary."
"There is an overarching management framework [with this integration], and underneath, those underlying resources have a greater level of awareness of each other in how they like to receive storage traffic," said Dave Cahill, director of strategic alliances at SolidFire. "It delivers a level of Quality of Service optimization that hasn't existed across the key building blocks previously. It's all about delivering Quality of Service on a per-volume basis. The one piece that tends to get in the way of that is the network."
Cloud provider CloudSigma AG, a customer of both Plexxi and SolidFire, is introducing the new SDN-storage integration into its infrastructure.
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"SolidFire is a distributed system, so this means the product sits on the network and consists of several physical nodes that each hold 10 SSD disks. These are accessed by virtual machines by whatever network is available," said Bernino Lind, chief operating officer at CloudSigma. "If you have tens of thousands of virtual machines and tens of thousands of disks on different SolidFire devices, trying to optimize the routing of that is a problem. I don't even want to calculate what kind of routing tables would be needed. With SolidFire and Plexxi able to speak together, our virtualization layer can tell Plexxi and SolidFire, 'Hey, I'm a virtual machine residing over here and my disk is residing over there. Can you please make me the shortest route between?'"
Lind said this integration will scale out well in his data center as he deploys more racks and more SolidFire devices because the WDM-style fiber ring that Plexxi switches use to interconnect will allow him to maintain a flat, low-latency topology.
The SDN-storage integration offered by SolidFire and Plexxi is an essential element of CloudSigma's ability to deliver service-level agreements on something more than just uptime.
"We want to issue guarantees on performance," Lind said. "It's not something that we have now, but to be able to do that we have to architect the network, storage and compute fabric so that we know we can guarantee performance. [The Plexxi-SolidFire] integration is a step toward that."
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