Furrier began by asking “What’s going on with QLogic and EMC World?”
“All kinds of changes at QLogic,” David replied, citing the new CEO, and QLogic’s recent acquisition of Broadcom’s Ethernet business and Brocade’s HPA business.
Davis shared the “play-by-play” of the Broadcom and Brocade acquisitions.
“We had a Fibre Channel switch business for many years,” Davis began, “When we decided to back out of that space, it made working with Brocade much easier.” Davis finds the new partnership between QLogic, “the number one supplier of Fibre Channel adapters,” and Brocade, “the number one supplier of Fibre Channel switches,” exciting — not only because they have access to new technologies, but also because “we’re really able to do some neat things in the QOS and the management of the data flow areas that you’ll see in some future products.”
The Fibre Channel and Ethernet Landscape
Rooting his question in the changes the server-adapter marketplace in recent years, Miniman wondered how Davis saw that market’s landscape. Davis called the Fibre Channel a “two-horse race” between QLogic and Emulex. On the Ethernet side Davis noted that there were a host of smaller enterprises, but noted that with the QLogic acquisition of Broadcom data technology, that business is also starting to consolidate.
No Merge in Sight for Fibre Channel and Ethernet Architecture
Keeping with his interest in QLogic solutions, Miniman asked whether Davis predicted Fibre Channel and Ethernet to merge. Davis responded that he expects the two technologies to “live separately for quite some time.” They serve different markets: “Fiber channel has a very established market. All the high-end enterprises have used it for years. Ethernet has a very established market from a different perspective as the basic connectivity.”
The Future of Fibre Channel and Ethernet
Next, Miniman asked Davis what he sees in the marketplace that will drive the discussions low latency for years to come. Miniman cited EMC’s recent acquisition of DSSD and the sub-microsecond designs they are using. Davis explained that moves like these indicate Fibre Channel is going to be key to the Flash space, especially at the 16 gig level and increasing quickly to the 32 gig level. Some, David mentioned, are also doing 40 gig Ethernet, so “high performance is needed for flash whatever the network underlying it.” Turning his attention to low-latency, Davis described Fibre Channel as a “high-performance storage interface,” one that Ethernet is quickly catching up with “technologies like RoCE.”
Fibre Channel’s Global Growth
In his next question, Miniman touched on the growing popularity of Fibre Channel, in Asia, and specifically in China. “It’s tried and true technology,” Davis responded. He also added that he believes part of Fibre Channel’s growth in China has to do with the number of Chinese technologists educated in US schools, where Fibre Channel “is what’s taught.”
By Christa Ayer
The western Pennsylvania school district of Titusville faced a combination of IT challenges all too common in the K-12 space: aging PCs, tight budgets, and overworked IT staff. The district's two-person IT team worked out of a classroom-turned-server-room at Titusville High School, serving 2,200 K-12 students across six campuses. Every three years, the Titusville School District replaced 50 percent of its computers. Still, as machines aged, startup times were reaching seven minutes, frustrating teachers and students and wasting valuable class time.
Director of Technology John Frye knew VDI offered a way to ease IT workload and extend the life of his the district's 1,400 desktop and laptop machines. But, would the up-front costs of implementing VDI put the solution out of reach?
Frye turned to virtualization solution provider CrossIT and its VDI tool of choice QLogic FabricCache adapters. "FabricCache is one of the flagship components of CrossIT's VDI solution, and virtualization in general," says Thomas Breakiron, CrossIT manager of technical services.
Breakiron agrees that the up-front costs of VDI can be daunting. "VDI requires storage solutions with many high-performance hard disk drives to effectively replace desktop PCs." CrossIT's creative alternative was a VDI implementation comprising VMware Horizon View desktop virtualization software, ACNC JetStor storage arrays, and a handful of FabricCache adapters.
"FabriCache was really the silver bullet for slaying the problem because it gave us a way to make a commodity SAN," says Breakiron. "We're using very basic, efficient storage arrays; but, when you put FabriCache in front of them, the performance is really incredible."
Engineering for 5 Percent
On the whole, Titusville students use common applications: Microsoft Office and a handful of browsers. "The problem is Windows itself," says Breakiron. "Improperly engineered, this system would absolutely fail every morning at 8:05 when the students boot up all those machines."
In fact, the system needed to withstand the same burst every 45 minutes when students log out, change classes, and log back in. "You need to engineer the system for 5 percent of the day -- but it's a crushing 5 percent," says Breakiron. "This system could run without FabriCache, but it would never survive 8:05 a.m.; it would never survive what happens every 45 minutes."
A Fresh Start
Since the VDI implementation, life has changed dramatically for Titusville's IT staff. Before VDI, the two-person team spent most of its time re-imaging machines and swapping out hard drives. "We had to fix a computer every time someone downloaded a virus or malware," says Frye. "We were swamped."
No longer requiring ever-increasing amounts of processing power and memory to run applications, those old PCs due for replacement gained new life as dumb displays. Each user gets a fresh copy of Windows and a fresh set of applications each time they log in. When they log out, the apps and OS are purged, and the next user gets a fresh copy. "A user could do the worst possible things to that copy of Windows and those apps – erase them even," says Breakiron. "The only time IT has to touch a computer is if it physically breaks."
Students also see a difference. Not only are they not wasting valuable class time booting their computers, they have the option of using their own computers or devices. "Students can access a school desktops from home, and get exactly the same quality experience they do at school," says Breakiron. "Even if they have a slow or outdated computer at home, as long as they have an Internet connection that is within reason, they can call this up right through Firefox, IE, Chrome, or Safari." Students can even print to the printers at school.
Even though the improvement in application performance is impressive, Breakiron believes that the $500,000 budget is what makes this implementation special. "Without FabricCache, we would've been looking at $500,000 just for EMC equipment, plus another few hundred thousand dollars with Dell, and another few hundred thousand with VMware. The project would have still happened because it was necessary, but it would have happened on a much smaller scale."
By George Crump
In a recent webinar, QLogic's Steve Garceau accurately described the advantages of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) strategy, as well as the challenges. While there is the potential for cost savings, the primary benefit that data centers will see when embarking on a VDI initiative is increased operational efficiency and potentially increased data security. The primary challenge to these gains though is user adoption. If users won’t embrace the VDI initiative, then these gains will obviously be meaningless.
The key to gaining user acceptance of VDI is performance of their virtual desktop; storage is the primary inhibitor to being able to deliver a positive user experience. The problem is that most VDI storage performance upgrades are costly and disruptive. This can threaten the return on investment calculation that was used to gain approval for the VDI project in the first place.
Flash To The Rescue
To resolve the storage performance challenge that VDI presents, many VDI project managers have resorted to adding some form of solid state disk (SSD) to the infrastructure. While SSD does raise the storage cost of VDI, it does tend to resolve many of the performance challenges. If SSD can be implemented correctly, then the number of virtual desktops per host can be increased, potentially offsetting the increased cost of storage. SSD can also improve user adoption since their virtual desktops may actually perform better than their former physical desktops.
The Flash vs. VDI Challenge
For flash not to negatively impact the VDI ROI requires that it be implemented as efficiently as possible while still improving performance to the point that the above mentioned increased density in virtual desktops can be achieved. For many environments, this is going to mean utilizing flash as cache so that the existing storage footprint can be leveraged. Buying a brand-new storage system or even adding SSD to an existing name brand system can be very costly, to the point that it would negatively impact the VDI ROI.
For good reason, using flash as a cache is an attractive alternative to buying a new storage system or performing an expensive upgrade to a current storage system. With caching, only a small percentage of storage capacity needs to be flash based. The caching software automatically moves the most active data to the flash SSD. This lowers the cost and helps to intelligently identify which data sets are cache worthy.
As a result, the industry has sprung forward with a plethora of caching add-on solutions. There are network based cache solutions and server side cache solutions. In fact, there are so many offerings that it can be downright confusing for the overworked IT professional to pinpoint which of these solutions would be the most appropriate for their VDI needs.
Network caches are an all-inclusive solution and have the advantage of working across a variety of storage systems. They also do not require anything to be installed in the host, but all the data must still traverse the storage network. Also, the majority of these solutions are IP or NFS based, where the large majority of VDI implementations use fibre channel for their storage network connectivity.
Server side caches have the advantage of significantly reducing the amount of data that has to go across the network. While most server side caches are read only, write performance will also improve since the storage network becomes almost exclusively dedicated to writes. This type of caching requires that two components be installed in the server. First, the SSD storage media itself has to be selected. The IT planner has to decide between lower latency but more expensive PCIe SSD or higher latency but less expensive drive form factor SSD. Then caching software has to be selected and installed.
Caching software can be installed at different areas within the software stack, including at the hypervisor kernel, as a virtual machine or within multiple virtual machines. Even after the software selection process is done, there is some concern as to how running the caching software on the server will impact performance. Again, there are pros and cons to each; which approach is most appropriate will vary from data center to data center.
A Cache Alternative
An alternative that may provide the best of both worlds are storage host bus adapters (HBA) that integrate cache right on to the card. The QLogic FabricCache, discussed in the above webinar, is an excellent example of this technology. This type of implementation means that no caching software needs to be tested and installed, since it is integrated on the same HBA driver stack already in use. It also shares the benefit of other server side caching in that it can eliminate redundant read traffic from spanning the network.
At the same time, a caching HBA also provides similar value that network caches do. Since they operate at the HBA level, any storage SAN attached storage device that they connect to can be accelerated as part of the cache. QLogic's implementation even provides a cache sharing function, in that clustered servers with FabricCache cards can share each other’s cache contents thus accelerating access to a larger data pool and further reducing the I/O demands placed upon the network storage device.
The storage infrastructure that supports the VDI environment plays a critical role in user adoption of their virtualized desktops. Thanks to the capabilities of flash storage that role can be maximized. Caching allows flash to be used efficiently but many implementations are disruptive. The key for data centers is how to implement caching without breaking the bank and causing too much disruption. Flash enhanced HBAs, like those available from QLogic, may provide the ideal way to accomplish these seemingly at odd goals.
The 2014 Partner Program Guide offers the information solution providers need to evaluate IT vendors they work with or are considering working with. The guide is based on detailed applications submitted by 200 vendors, outlining all aspects of their partner programs.
5-Star Partner Programs
As part of the Partner Program Guide, The Channel Company designates some programs as 5-Star Partner Programs.
Cloud Vendors, Part 1
Cloud Vendors, Part 2
Software Vendors, Part 1
Software Vendors, Part 2
QLogic Corporation announced that its FlexSuite2600 Series 16Gb Gen 5 FC adapters are now shipping for the Lenovo ThinkServer product family.
Continued collaboration between the two companies demonstrates an ongoing commitment to deliver enterprise server and storage performance and satisfy customer needs in IT markets in China and around the globe.
Available under the Lenovo brand, the Gen 5 adapters allow enterprises to improve price-performance, reduce power consumption-per-gigabit, conserve PCIe slots, and support more VMs per server. Lenovo Gen 5 FC adapters are backward-compatible with 8Gb and 4Gb FC storage networking solutions, providing investment protection for existing SAN infrastructure.
"Lenovo ThinkServer enterprise servers are designed to meet business-critical demands by delivering outstanding reliability and exceptional value," said Darrel Ward, VP, enterprise product group, Lenovo. "Our latest Intel Xeon E5-based servers, combined with QLogic Gen 5 FC adapters, provide the performance and features necessary to drive today's virtualized data centers and cloud computing environments."
Lenovo Gen 5 FC adapters are designed to tackle high-bandwidth, I/O-intensive applications where reliability is critical, such as virtualization, streaming media, online transaction processing, backup and recovery and data warehousing. The underlying driver stack in QLogic Gen 5 FC technology is proven in more than 15 million ports shipped to enterprise data centers around the world.
"QLogic Gen 5 FC adapters provide large OEM customers such as Lenovo with a competitive advantage, with unique features such as port-level isolation, and proven QLogic reliability, performance and value," said Vikram Karvat, VP marketing, QLogic. "This is the second product we've announced with Lenovo in less than four months; it signals our growing partnership and expanding momentum in China, a key area for QLogic market expansion."