Fast Network Connectivity Key to Unlocking All-flash Array Performance

The current generation of all-flash arrays offers enough performance to saturate the network connections between the arrays and application servers in the data center. In many scenarios, the key limiter to all-flash array performance is storage network bandwidth. Therefore, all-flash array vendors have been quick to adopt the latest advances in storage network connectivity.

Fast Networks are Here, and Faster Networks are Coming

Chart showing current and future Ethernet speeds

Ethernet is now available with connection speeds up to 400 Gb per second. Fibre Channel now reaches speeds up to 128 Gb per second. As discussed during a recent SNIA presentation, the roadmaps for both technologies forecast another 2x to 4x increase in performance.

While the fastest connections are generally used to create a storage network fabric among data center switches, many all-flash arrays support fast storage network connectivity.

All-flash Arrays Embrace Fast Network Connectivity

DCIG’s research into all-flash arrays identified thirty-seven (37) models that support 32 Gb FC, seventeen (17) that support 100 Gb Ethernet, and ten (10) that support 100 Gb InfiniBand connectivity. These include products from Dell EMC, FUJITSU Storage, Hitachi Vantara, Huawei, Kaminario, NEC Storage, NetApp, Nimbus Data, Pure Storage and Storbyte.

Summary chart of AFA connectivity support

Source: DCIG

Other Drivers of Fast Network Connectivity

Although all-flash storage is a key driver behind fast network connectivity, there are also several other significant drivers. Each of these has implications for the optimal balance between compute, storage, network bandwidth, and the cost of creating and managing the infrastructure.

These other drivers of fast networking include:

  • Faster servers that offer more capacity and performance density per rack unit
  • Increasing volumes of data require increasing bandwidth
  • Increasing east-west traffic between servers in the data center due to scale-out infrastructure and distributed cloud-native applications
  • The growth of GPU-enabled AI and data mining
  • Larger data centers, especially cloud and co-location facilities that may house tens of thousands of servers
  • Fatter pipes yield more efficient fabrics with fewer switches and cables

Predominant All-Flash Array Connectivity Use Cases

How an all-flash array connects to the network is frequently based on the type of organization deploying the array. While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, the predominant connection methods and use cases can be summarized as follows:

  • Ethernet = Cloud and Service Provider data centers
  • Fibre Channel = Enterprise data centers
  • InfiniBand = HPC environments

Recent advances in network connectivity–and the adoption of these advances by all-flash array providers–creates new opportunities to increase the amount of work that can be accomplished by an all-flash array. Therefore, organizations intending to acquire all-flash storage should consider each product’s embrace of fast network connectivity as an important part of the evaluation process.

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Ken Clipperton

About Ken Clipperton

Ken Clipperton is the Lead Analyst for Storage at DCIG, a group of analysts with IT industry expertise who provide informed, insightful, third party analysis and commentary on IT hardware, software and services. Within the data center, DCIG has a special focus on the enterprise data storage and electronically stored information (ESI) industries.

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