NVMe over Fibre Channel (FC-NVMe)

Enterprise storage systems are tackling strenuous workloads including big data, analytics, deep learning, and AI. These applications will only grow in size and scale as we move forward in our data-driven future. NVMe over Fibre Channel is purpose-built to handle these and other demanding tasks across the storage network.

The enterprise is transforming with NVMe, a protocol that first emerged as the ideal server interface for solid state storage. NVMe radically simplified access to SSDs over the PCIe bus compared to the traditional SCSI approach, which allows for lower latency and greater IOPS performance. Though NVMe began as an internal server protocol, customers quickly demanded access to hundreds and thousands of NVMe SSDs.  NVMe is extended over fabrics with the NVMe-oF standard that natively supports Fibre Channel and FC-NVMe that defines the transport layer for NVMe.  These two standards build the NVMe over Fibre Channel solution that extends NVMe over Storage Area Networks (SANs) to accelerate and scale access to all-flash and hybrid storage arrays.

Broadcom creates end-to-end storage solutions for the entire enterprise, from the servers and clients to the network of storage arrays. On the server side, Broadcom solutions include NVMe-enabled SAS/SATA RAID controllers and host bus adapters (HBAs) featuring Tri-Mode technology, PCIe switches, and Emulex Fibre Channel HBAs designed for servers to move data quickly with low latency. These server solutions are the foundation of a connected enterprise.

HBA Controller

In the storage backend, SANs enable connectivity of any storage device across a network to communicate to any server across the system. Fibre Channel is the standard protocol for storage connectivity within a SAN and operates in a lossless fashion, providing security and congestion management along with high performance.  Broadcom expects that within the next few years, all of the most demanding enterprise applications will depend upon the transition of even higher performance NVMe over Fibre Channel for robust, rocket-fast access to enterprise storage.

By adding NVMe to the SAN storage fabric, new levels of workload acceleration are available. Just how fast is NVMe over Fibre Channel compared to a traditional SAN using the Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) with its SCSI command set? In a recent report, Demartek reported observing up to 58% higher IOPS for NVMe over Fibre Channel and up to 34% lower latency compared to traditional SCSI FCP using the same hardware. And because Broadcom’s Brocade® Gen 6 Fibre Channel switches and Emulex® HBAs have the ability to seamlessly run concurrent traditional SCSI and NVMe connectivity from the same device, organizations can integrate NVMe without a disruptive rip and replace and provide the investment protection and flexibility they require to serve the needs of their demanding environment.

Broadcom also works with the Fibre Channel industry to prove that its products are interoperable, end to end, with the entire ecosystem.  This includes operating systems, storage arrays, servers, HBAs, switches, analyzers, cables, etc.  Everything that enterprise customers demand for their open, interoperable, storage infrastructures.  The NVMe over Fibre Channel ecosystem recently held its second NVMe over Fibre Channel multi-vendor plugfest.  Nine companies participated at the plugfest, which featured a focus on conformance, error injection, multi-hop, and interoperability testing of Fibre Channel with NVMe concurrently using Gen 6 32GFC along with prior generation Fibre Channel solutions. These plugfests ensure that the solutions that come to market will perform as expected across the widest range of products that meet the standards of NVMe over Fibre Channel.

Broadcom’s family of Gen 6 Brocade Fibre Channel switches and Emulex HBAs have more than 20 years of field-proven performance and reliability, making Fibre Channel the trusted technology of choice. Gen 6 Fibre Channel not only delivers 32GFC performance, but also provides deep visibility into the health and performance of the SAN that can help businesses quickly respond to dynamic business demands. Leveraging the increased efficiency of NVMe, combined with the high performance, low latency, and actionable intelligence of Gen 6 Fibre Channel, organizations can accelerate IOPS to deliver the performance, application response time, and scalability needed for next-generation data centers.

SAN Switch and Director

Within the SAN, most of the newest all-flash arrays have integrated Emulex Gen 6 connectivity into their designs to take advantage of the highest throughput, highest IOPS, and lowest latency.  The new Brocade G630 switch and Brocade FC32-64 port blade for the Brocade X6 director are the latest Gen 6 Fibre Channel switching solutions built for flash storage-based systems to continue to accelerate business operations, respond to dynamic demands, and eliminate complexity for the world’s most critical enterprises. For connecting to the SAN, the latest Emulex LPe31000/LPe32000 Gen 6 HBAs provide the highest IOPS and lowest-latency connectivity. For an infrastructure that is currently based around Fibre Channel, for customers that demand interoperability, as well as the most performance, reliability, and scalability, NVMe over Fibre Channel is the ideal storage fabric technology to adopt and deploy.

A common Storage Area Network configuration

NVMe over Fibre Channel