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Archive for March, 2017

March 17th, 2017

Three Days, Two Speaking Sessions and One New Product Line: Marvell Sets the (IEEE 802.1BR) Standard for Data Center Solutions at the 2017 OCP U.S. Summit

By Michael Zimmerman

At last week’s 2017 OCP U.S. Summit, it was impossible to miss the buzz and activity happening at Marvell’s booth. Taking our mantra #MarvellOnTheMove to heart, the team worked tirelessly throughout the week to present and demo Marvell’s vision for the future of the data center, which came to fruition with the launch of our newest Prestera® PX Passive Intelligent Port Extender (PIPE) family.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

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Marvell kicked off OCP with two speaking sessions from its leading technologists. Yaniv Kopelman, Networking CTO of the Networking Group, presented “Extending the Lifecycle of 3.2T Switches,” a discussion on the concept of port extender technology and how to apply it to future data center architecture. Michael Zimmerman, vice president and general manager of the Networking Group, then spoke on “Modular Networking” and teased Marvell’s first modular solution based on port extender technology.

Throughout the show, customers, media and attendees visited Marvell’s booth to see our breakthrough innovations that are leading the disaggregation of the cloud network infrastructure industry. These products included:

Marvell’s Prestera PX PIPE family purpose-built to reduce power consumption, complexity and cost in the data center

Marvell’s 88SS1092 NVMe SSD controller designed to help boost next-generation storage and data center systems

Marvell’s Prestera 98CX84xx switch family designed to help data centers break the 1W per 25G port barrier for 25G Top-of-Rack (ToR) applications

Marvell’s ARMADA® 64-bit ARM®-based modular SoCs developed to improve the flexibility, performance and efficiency of servers and network appliances in the data center

Marvell’s Alaska® C 100G/50G/25G Ethernet transceivers which enable low-power, high-performance and small form factor solutions

We’re especially excited to introduce our PIPE solution on the heels of OCP because of the dramatic impact we anticipate it will have on the data center…

Until now, data centers with 10GbE and 25GbE port speeds have been challenged with achieving lower operating expense (OPEX) and capital expenditure (CAPEX) costs as their bandwidth needs increase. As the industry’s first purpose-built port extender supporting the IEEE 802.1BR standard, Marvell’s PIPE solution is a revolutionary approach that makes it possible to deploy ToR switches at half the power and cost of a traditional Ethernet switch.

Marvell’s PIPE solution enables data centers to be architected with a very simple, low-cost, low-power port extender in place of a traditional ToR switch, pushing the heavy switching functionality upstream. As the industry today transitions from 10GbE to 25GbE and from 40GbE to 100GbE port speeds, data centers are also in need of a modular building block to bridge the variety of current and next-generation port speeds. Marvell’s PIPE family provides a flexible and scalable solution to simplify and accelerate such transitions, offering multiple configuration options of Ethernet connectivity for a range of port speeds and port densities.

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Amidst all of the announcements, speaking sessions and demos, our very own George Hervey, principal architect, also sat down with Semiconductor Engineering’s Ed Sperling for a Tech Talk. In the white board session, George discussed the power efficiency of networking in the enterprise and how costs can be saved by rightsizing Ethernet equipment.

The 2017 OCP U.S. Summit was filled with activity for Marvell, and we can’t wait to see how our customers benefit from our suite of data center solutions. In the meantime, we’re here to help with all of your data center needs, questions and concerns as we watch the industry evolve.

What were some of your OCP highlights? Did you get a chance to stop by the Marvell booth at the show? Tweet us at @marvellsemi to let us know, and check out all of the activity from last week. We want to hear from you!

March 13th, 2017

Port Extender Technology Changes Network Switch Landscape

By George Hervey

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Our lives are increasingly dependent on cloud-based computing and storage infrastructure. Whether at home, at work, or on the move with our smartphones and other mobile computing devices, cloud compute and storage resources are omnipresent. It is no surprise therefore that the demands on such infrastructure are growing at an alarming rate, especially as the trends of big data and the internet of things start to make their impact. With an increasing number of applications and users, the annual growth rate is believed to be 30x per annum, and even up to 100x in some cases. Such growth leaves Moore’s law and new chip developments unable to keep up with the needs of the computing and network infrastructure. These factors are making the data and communication network providers invest in multiple parallel computing and storage resources as a way of scaling to meet demands. It is now common for cloud data centers to have hundreds if not thousands of servers that need to be connected together.

Interconnecting all of these compute and storage appliances is becoming a real challenge, as more and more switches are required. Within a data center a classic approach to networking is a hierarchical one, with an individual rack using a leaf switch – also termed a top-of-rack or ToR switch – to connect within the rack, a spine switch for a series of racks, and a core switch for the whole center. And, like the servers and storage appliances themselves, these switches all need to be managed. In the recent past there have usually been one or two vendors of data center network switches and the associated management control software, but things are changing fast. Most of the leading cloud service providers, with their significant buying power and technical skills, recognised that they could save substantial cost by designing and building their own network equipment. Many in the data center industry saw this as the first step in disaggregating the network hardware and the management software controlling it. With no shortage of software engineers, the cloud providers took the management software development in-house while outsourcing the hardware design. While that, in part, satisfied the commercial needs of the data center operators, from a technical and operational management perspective nothing has been simplified, leaving a huge number of switches to be managed.

The first breakthrough to simplify network complexity came in 2009 with the introduction of what we know now as a port extender. The concept rests on the belief that there are many nodes in the network that don’t need the extensive management capabilities most switches have. Essentially this introduces a parent/child relationship, with the controlling switch, the parent, being the managed switch and the child, the port extender, being fed from it. This port extender approach was ratified into the networking standard 802.1BR in 2012, and every network switch built today complies with this standard. With less technical complexity within the port extenders, there were perceived benefits that would come from lower per unit cost compared to a full bridge switch, in addition to power savings.

The controlling bridge and port extender approach has certainly helped to drive simplicity into network switch management, but that’s not the end of the story. Look under the lid of a port extender and you’ll find the same switch chip being used as in the parent bridge. We have moved forward, sort of. Without a chip specifically designed as a port extender switch vendors have continued to use their standard chips sets, without realising potential cost and power savings. However, the truly modular approach to network switching has taken a leap forward with the launch of Marvell’s 802.1BR compliant port extender IC termed PIPE – passive intelligent port extender, enabling interoperability with a controlling bridge switch from any of the industry’s leading OEMs. It also offers attractive cost and power consumption benefits, something that took the shine off the initial interest in port extender technology. Seen as the second stage of network disaggregation, this approach effectively leads to decoupling the port connectivity from the processing power in the parent switch, creating a far more modular approach to networking. The parent switch no longer needs to know what type of equipment it is connecting to, so all the logic and processing can be focused on the parent, and the port I/O taken care of in the port extender.

Marvell’s Prestera® PIPE family targets data centers operating at 10GbE and 25GbE speeds that are challenged to achieve lower CAPEX and OPEX costs as the need for bandwidth increases. The Prestera PIPE family will facilitate the deployment of top-of-rack switches at half the cost and power consumption of a traditional Ethernet switch. The PIPE approach also includes a fast fail over and resiliency function, essential for providing continuity and high availability to critical infrastructure.

March 8th, 2017

NVMe-based Work Fabrics Blow Through Legacy Rotational Media Limitations in the Data Center: Speed and Cost Benefits of NVMe SSD Shared Storage Now in Its Second Generation

By Nick Ilyadis

Marvell Debuts 88SS1092 Second-Gen NVM Express SSD Controller at OCP Summit  

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SSDs in the Data Center: NVMe and Where We’ve Been
When solid-state drives (SSDs) were first introduced into the data center, the infrastructure mandated they work within the confines of the then current bus technology, such as Serial ATA (SATA) and Serial Attached SCSI (SAS), developed for rotational media. Even the fastest hard disk drives (HDDs) of course, couldn’t keep up with an SSD, but neither could their current pipelines, which created a bottleneck that hampered the full exploitation of SSD technology. PCI Express (PCIe) offered a suitable high-bandwidth bus technology already in place as a transport layer for networking, graphics and other add-in cards. It became the next viable option, but the PCIe interface still relied on old HDD-based SCSI or SATA protocols. Thus the NVM Express (NVMe) industry working group was formed to create a standardized set of protocols and commands developed for the PCIe bus, in order to allow multiple paths that could take advantage of the full benefits of SSDs in the data center. The NVMe specification was designed from the ground up to deliver high-bandwidth and low-latency storage access for current and future NVM technologies.

The NVMe interface provides an optimized command issue and completion path. It includes support for parallel operation by supporting up to 64K commands within a single I/O queue to the device. Additionally, support was added for many Enterprise capabilities like end-to-end data protection (compatible with T10 DIF and DIX standards), enhanced error reporting and virtualization. All-in-all, NVMe is a scalable host controller interface designed to address the needs of Enterprise, Data Center and Client systems that utilize PCIe-based solid-state drives to help maximize SSD performance.

SSD Network Fabrics
New NVMe controllers from companies like Marvell allowed the data center to share storage data to further maximize cost and performance efficiencies. By creating SSD network fabrics, a cluster of SSDs can be formed to pool storage from individual servers and maximize overall data center storage. In addition, by creating a common enclosure for additional servers, data can be transported for shared data access. These new compute models therefore allow data centers to not only fully optimize the fast performance of SSDs, but more economically deploy those SSDs throughout the data center, lowering overall cost and streamlining maintenance. Instead of adding additional SSDs to individual servers, under-deployed SSDs can be tapped into and redeployed for use by over-allocated servers.

Here’s a simple example of how these network fabrics work: If a system has ten servers, each with an SSD sitting on the PCIe bus, an SSD cluster can be formed from each of the SSDs to provide not only a means for additional storage, but also a method to pool and share data access. If, let’s say one server is only 10 percent utilized, while another is over allocated, that SSD cluster will allow more storage for the over-allocated server without having to add SSDs to the individual servers. When the example is multiplied by hundreds of servers, you can see that cost, maintenance and performance efficiencies skyrocket.

Marvell helped pave the way for these new types of compute models for the data center when it introduced its first NVMe SSD controller. That product supported up to four lanes of PCIe 3.0, and was suitable for full 4GB/s or 2GB/s end points depending on host system customization. It enabled unparalleled IOPS performance using the NVMe advanced Command Handling. In order to fully utilize the high-speed PCIe connection, Marvell’s innovative NVMe design facilitated PCIe link data flows by deploying massive hardware automation. This helped to alleviate the legacy host control bottlenecks and unleash the true Flash performance.

Second-Generation NVMe Controllers are Here!
This first product has now been followed up with the introduction of the Marvell 88SS1092 second-generation NVMe SSD controller, which has passed through in-house SSD validation and third-party OS/platform compatibility testing. Therefore, the Marvell® 88SS1092 is ready to go to boost next-generation Storage and Datacenter systems, and is being debuted at the Open Computing Project (OCP) Summit March 8 and 9 in San Jose, Calif.

The Marvell 88SS1092 is Marvell’s second-generation NVMe SSD controller capable of PCIe 3.0 X 4 end points to provide full 4GB/s interface to the host and help remove performance bottlenecks. While the new controller advances a solid-state storage system to a more fully flash-optimized architecture for greater performance, it also includes Marvell’s third-generation error-correcting, low-density parity check (LDPC) technology for the additional reliability enhancement, endurance boost and TLC NAND device support on top of MLC NAND.

Today, the speed and cost benefits of NVMe SSD shared storage is not only a reality, but is now in its second generation. The network paradigm has been shifted. By using the NVMe protocol, designed from the ground up to exploit the full performance of SSDs, new compute models are being created without the limitations of legacy rotational media. SSD performance can be maximized, while SSD clusters and new network fabrics enable pooled storage and shared data access. The hard work of the NVMe working group is becoming a reality for today’s data center, as new controllers and technology help optimize performance and cost efficiencies of SSD technology.

Marvell 88SS1092 Second-Generation NVMe SSD Controller
New process and advanced NAND controller design includes:
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March 1st, 2017

Marvell at the Forefront of Connecting the Cars of Tomorrow, Today

By Alex Tan

When you sit in a car today, the focal point of the interior is likely an infotainment system. From displaying vehicle diagnostics to parking assistance to enabling multimedia streaming and additional controls such as phone calls, navigation, etc., the infotainment system has become the touchpoint of the in-vehicle connectivity experience.

In order for drivers to take full advantage of these advanced features, internal vehicle data networks need to provide high bandwidth and seamless connectivity so these technologies can effectively communicate with each other. However, with multiple in-vehicle systems using different interfaces and connectivity technologies, how can we bridge the communication to get them to speak the same language?

The IEEE’s Ethernet standards act as the connectivity backbone to seamlessly link the different domains of the car such as infotainment and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Marvell is proud to have played an instrumental role in the development of the IEEE 802.3bp 1000BASE-T1 PHY standard which enables data between in-vehicle systems to be distributed over a flexible, low cost and high bandwidth network. In October 2015, Marvell introduced the 88Q2112 automotive Ethernet physical layer (PHY) transceiver, the industry’s first 1000BASE-T1 automotive Ethernet PHY transceiver based on the IEEE’s draft 1000BASE-T1 spec. Leveraging our advanced wireless and Ethernet technology solutions, the 1000BASE-T1 solution supports uncompressed HD video, ideal for distributing camera and sensor data in ADAS applications. In the infotainment space, gigabit Ethernet over a single unshielded twisted pair copper cable is a logical solution for transporting audio, video and voice data at a higher data rate and resolution. Marvell’s 88Q2112 PHY transceiver enables automakers to use one Ethernet switch to connect the multiple advanced features of tomorrow’s cars. Furthering our commitment to automotive innovation, in April 2016 we opened the Marvell Automotive Center of Excellence (ACE), a first-of-its-kind automotive networking technology development center. Located in Ettlingen, Germany, ACE aims to expand development and education efforts to advance the architecture of future connected, intelligent cars.

We showcased Marvell’s advanced auto connectivity solutions at the 2016 IEEE-SA Ethernet & IP @ Automotive Technology Day (E&IP@ATD) in Paris this past September, demonstrating how our technology supports multiple HD video streams with up to 4K resolution. Covering the exciting activities at E&IP@ATD, Tadashi Nezu of Nikkei wrote about our automotive connectivity leadership, noting that Marvell is rapidly coming to the forefront of the market. Nezu also lauded the Company for its early Ethernet development efforts, noting how Marvell quickly developed a solution compliant to the draft IEEE 802.3bp 1000BASE-T1 standard, before the specifications were even finalized.

Earlier this month, we presented our solutions at the heart of the world’s automotive development at the 3rd annual Automotive Ethernet Congress in Munich. Manfred Kunz, head of development at the ACE, spoke about automotive Ethernet security, while Christopher Mash, senior manager of automotive system architecture and field applications, co-presented with Bosch and Continental who shared their experience with the new 1000BASE-T1 technology. We showcased several automotive Ethernet solutions across nine customer booths, including the world’s first 1000Base-T1 Automotive Ethernet system, industry-leading intelligent security on the new 88Q5050 switch and a new platform demonstrating Marvell’s 10Gb capability for automotive.

The event was a success, drawing over 700 attendees, as well as speakers and exhibitors from over 20 countries.

Automotive Ethernet Congress, Munich, Germany

Automotive Ethernet Congress, Munich, Germany

As automotive technological developments continue to advance rapidly and data continues to play a fundamental role in advancing the future of connected cars, we look forward to continue innovating and collaborating with our auto partners to further accelerate car connectivity.