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Posts Tagged ‘NVMe’

November 12th, 2020

Flash Memory Summit Names Marvell a 2020 Best of Show Award Winner

By Lindsey Moore, Marketing Coordinator, Marvell

Marvell wins FMS Award for Most Innovative Technology

Flash Memory Summit, the industry’s largest trade show dedicated to flash memory and solid-state storage technology, presented its 2020 Best of Show Awards yesterday in a virtual ceremony. Marvell, alongside Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), was named a winner for “Most Innovative Flash Memory Technology” in the controller/system category for the Marvell NVMe RAID accelerator in the HPE OS Boot Device.

Last month, Marvell introduced the industry’s first native NVMe RAID 1 accelerator, a state-of-the-art technology for virtualized, multi-tenant cloud and enterprise data center environments which demand optimized reliability, efficiency, and performance. HPE is the first of Marvell’s partners to support the new accelerator in the HPE NS204i-p NVMe OS Boot Device offered on select HPE ProLiant servers and HPE Apollo systems. The solution lowers data center total cost of ownership (TCO) by offloading RAID 1 processing from costly and precious server CPU resources, maximizing application processing performance.

“Enterprise IT environments need to protect the integrity of flash data storage while delivering an optimized, application-level user experience,” said Jay Kramer, Chairman of the Awards Program and President of Network Storage Advisors Inc. “We are proud to recognize the Marvell NVMe RAID Accelerator for efficiently offloading RAID 1 processing and directly connecting to two NVMe M.2 SSDs allowing the HPE OS boot solution to consume a single PCIe slot.”

More information about the 15th Annual Flash Memory Summit Best of Show Award Winners can be found here.

October 27th, 2020

Unleashing a Better Gaming Experience with NVMe RAID

By Shahar Noy, Senior Director, Product Marketing

You are an avid gamer. You spend countless hours in forums to decide between the ASUS TUF components and researching Radeon RX 500 or GeForce RTX 20, to ensure games would show at their best on your hard-earned PC gaming rig. You made your selection and can’t stop bragging about your system’s ray tracing capabilities and how realistic is the “Forza Motorsport 7” view from your McLaren F1 GT cockpit when you drive through the legendary Le Mans circuit at dusk. You are very proud of your machine and the year 2020 is turning out to be good: Microsoft finally launched the gorgeous looking “Flight Simulator 2020,” and CD Projekt just announced that the beloved and award-winning “The Witcher 3” is about to get an upgrade to take advantage of the myriad of hardware updates available to serious gamers like you. You have your dream system in hand and life can’t be better.

You are frustrated though because something doesn’t feel right. Booting your PC takes forever, and on top of this, loading new advanced texture-rich games is very, very long, but the worst of it – some games have a prolonged “no action” period between scenes. You are puzzled about the latter, but you just learned that game developers use many tricks to mask slow scene (“asset”) load time. In advanced games, in order to load two rich environments where enough textures and models are required to fill the memory, the developers will have to add a long staircase or elevator ride or a windy corridor, to buy enough time (sometimes up to 30 seconds!) to ditch the old assets and load new ones instead. You start realizing that upgrading your HDD or SSD might be all it takes to get your system to the next level and provide the ultimate gaming experience. A faster SSD that can match the CPU and GPU capabilities of your system will ensure storage is no longer the bottleneck, enabling improved system boot-time, faster game-loading, and quicker world and new scene changes to keep an active and engaging experience.

You consult with your friends and they show off their new polished Ryzen 9 but you are a diehard Intel fan and won’t even consider giving up your i5. You are worried, because they have a new platform with PCIe Gen4 and you are a generation behind with your Gen3 system. Your best buddy, who just got an offer to join a pro Overwatch Team gunning for next year’s OWL Grand Finals, urges you to invest in a new system with Gen4 interfaces to boost your storage performance but you want to enjoy your existing rig for longer and your budget is limited. We know 2020 has been tough on many of us, but every cloud has a silver lining and, in this case, it is Marvell’s collaboration with Western Digital that has introduced one of the highest performing SSD solutions to unlock more of your existing system potential.

Benefits of NVMe RAID

Marvell and Western Digital have been listening to gamers and collaborated on the introduction of Western Digital’s WD_BLACKTM AN1500 NVMeTM SSD Add-In-Card to provide a better storage solution for gamers who are on PCIe Gen3 platforms (or even PCIe Gen4) and need more performance. By using Marvell’s advanced native hardware NVMe RAID engine, Western Digital can now double the capacity and significantly improve the performance over a single WD_BlackTM SN750 NVMeTM SSD without making any compromises. Marvell’s NVMe RAID technology was designed to connect two Gen3 SSDs through an extremely low latency engine and combine them into one bigger and faster SSD. The benefit of NVMe RAID is that the throughput of read and write operations to any file is multiplied by the number of drives since reads and writes are done concurrently. The two SSDs run in parallel and are exposed to the host as a single drive, unlocking higher capacity and throughput capabilities. In some ways you can think of this technology as combining Mario and Luigi into one mega character with greater powers who can easily take down Bowser in “Super Mario 3”!

Here is a quick comparison between the new WD_BLACK AN1500 NVMe SSD Add-In-Card and WD_BLACK SN750 NVMe SSD at similar capacity:

 

WD_BLACK AN1500

WD_BLACK SN750

PCIe Interface

Gen3x8

Gen3x4

Capacity

2TB

2TB

Performance (Spec)

 

 

Sequential Read

6.5GB/s

3.4GB/s

Random Write

780,000 IOPS

560,000 IOPS


When you consider what SSD will work best for gaming there are two critical metrics which provide good “real life” performance indicators – the sustained read performance and the mixed read/write performance.

The sustained read will indicate how fast the game can load and how effective is the new assets loading time during a game; the faster it is, the quicker your GPU can process the data and render it to the screen, providing better overall gaming experience.

AN1500 (red) peak above 5GB/s and even beat Sabrent PCI Gen4
Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/wd-black-an1500-nvme-aic-ssd-review/2
AN1500 (red) peak above 5GB/s and even beat Sabrent PCI Gen4
Single SN750 hit 3GB/s with big blocks
Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/wd-black-sn750-ssd,5957-2.html
Single SN750 hit 3GB/s with big blocks

In the chart above WD_BLACK AN1500 is 66% faster than WD_BLACK SN750 testing the same 2TB overall SSD capacity. It is amazing to see WD_BLACK AN1500 Gen3 performance beat other Gen4 SSDs and get closer to Samsung’s latest Gen4 SSD! The WD_BLACK AN1500 performance advantage, coupled with the ever-growing file size of games, can improve game load time by minutes and make new scenes available seconds earlier.

Mixed read/write, on the other hand, is important when your OS or game starts saving fragments of data. The OS constantly updates small fragments of the meta-data in case your system crashes and you need to recover your boot with minimum disruptions. The game itself can autosave the details of your progress and although it requires only small infrequent writes, it is extremely important that those be serviced quickly by the SSD. This enables the SSD to focus back on its main task – sustaining fast read performance in order to transfer big chunks of rich graphics data to the GPU and ensure quick game and scene load times.

In Boot, the WD_BLACK AN1500 came in first by a wide margin yet again with 174,143 IOPS with a latency of 183.8µs
Source: https://www.storagereview.com/review/wd_black-an1500-aic-ssd-review
In Boot, the WD_BLACK AN1500 came in first by a wide margin yet again with 174,143 IOPS with a latency of 183.8µs
The WD_BLACK SN750 went on to peak in third place with 115,170 IOPS at a latency of 282.5μs.
Source: https://www.storagereview.com/review/wd-black-sn750-nvme-ssd-review
The WD_BLACK SN750 went on to peak in third place with 115,170 IOPS at a latency of 282.5μs.

VDI Boot is a good indicator of mixed read/write transactions during an enterprise grade boot process. In this test the SSD is taxed with mixed operations and the results indicate real word random (IOPS) and latency measurements. In this test WD_BLACK AN1500 IOPS were higher by 51% compared to WD_BLACK SN750 and the only Gen3 drive to perform at sub 200us latency, therefore clearing up small fragmented writes very quickly, minimizing SSD bottleneck, and going back to service the intense read requests.

Summary

It is 2020 and it is not all gloomy. Marvell and Western Digital collaborated to provide these superhero-like storage speeds to elevate the gaming experience of your system to a whole new level. With the WD_BLACK AN1500 NVMe SSD Add-In-Card, fully equipped with an integrated heatsink and RGB lighting, you will be able to spend more time playing and less time waiting! Enjoy circling the Eiffel Tower piloting your 787 in “Flight Simulator” with quicker game and map loading times. Immerse yourself in “The Witcher 3”, controlling Geralt of Rivia as he combs quicker through the open world of Continent for monsters. Lastly, with your faster machine you can practice your skills more often and rise through the ranks in Overwatch Open and Contenders Divisions, so next time you team with your friends in a 6v6 match, there is no question who is heading into the finals!

August 18th, 2020

From Strong Awareness to Decisive Action: Meet Mr. QLogic

By Nishant Lodha, Director of Product Marketing – Emerging Technologies, Marvell

Marvell® Fibre Channel HBAs are getting a promotion and here is the announcement email –

I am pleased to announce the promotion of “Mr. QLogic® Fibre Channel” to Senior Transport Officer, Storage Connectivity at Enterprise Datacenters Inc. Mr. QLogic has been an excellent partner and instrumental in optimizing mission critical enterprise application access to external storage over the past 20 years. When Mr. QLogic first arrived at Enterprise Datacenters, block storage was in a disarray and efficiently scaling out performance seemed like an unsurmountable challenge. Mr. QLogic quickly established himself as a go-to leader and trusted partner for enabling low latency access to external storage across disk and flash. Mr. QLogic successfully collaborated with other industry leaders like Brocade and Mr. Cisco MDS to lay the groundwork for a broad set of innovative technologies under the StorFusion™ umbrella. In his new role, Mr. QLogic will further extend the value of StorFusion by bringing awareness of Storage Area Network (SAN) congestion into the server, while taking decisive action to prevent bottlenecks that may degrade mission critical enterprise application performance.

Please join me in congratulating QLogic on this well-deserved promotion.

Soon after any big promotion, reality sets in and everyone asks what you are going to do for them and how are you going to add value in your new role. Will you live up to the expectations?

Let’s take a journey together (virtually) in this three-part blog and find out how Mr. QLogic delivers!

Part 1: Heterogeneous SANs and Flash bring in new challenges

In the era of rapid digitalization, work from home, mobility and data explosion, increasing numbers of organizations rely on a robust digital infrastructure to sustain and grow their businesses. Hosted business-critical applications must perform at high capacity and in a predictable manner. Fibre Channel remains the connection of choice between server applications and storage array data. FC SANs must remain free of congestion so workloads can perform at their peak or risk business interruption due to stalled or poorly performing applications.

Fibre Channel is known for its ultra-reliability since it is implemented on a dedicated network with buffer-to-buffer credits. For a real-life parallel, think of a guaranteed parking spot at your destination, and knowing it’s there before you leave your driveway. That worked well between two directly connected devices and until the recent past, congestion in FC SANs was generally an isolated problem. However, SAN Congestion has the potential to become a more severe problem occurring at more places in the datacenter for the following reasons:

  1. Heterogenous SAN Speeds: While datacenters have seen widespread deployment of 16GFC and 32GFC, 4/8GFC still remain part of the fabric. Servers and Storage FC ports operating at mismatched speeds tend to congest the links between them.
  2. CapEx and OpEx Pressure: Amidst the global pandemic, businesses are under unprecedented pressure to optimize OpEx and increase their bottom lines. More applications/VMs are being hosted on the same servers increasing stress onto existing SANs causing previously balanced SANs to be prone to congestion.
  3. Flash Storage: FC SANs are no longer limited in performance due to spinning media. With the advent of NVMe and FC-NVMe, SANs are being pushed to their limits and existing links (4/8GFC) may not be able to sustain AFA bandwidth, creating oversubscription scenarios that lead to congestion and congestion spreading.
  4. Data Explosion: Datasets and databases are growing in scale and so are the Fibre Channel SANs that support these applications. Scale out SAN architectures, more ports and end points in a domain, mean that a singular congestion event can spread to and impact a wide set of applications and services.

FC SANs are lossless networks and all frames sent must be acknowledged by the receiver. The sender (e.g. a Storage Array) will stop sending frames if these acknowledgments are not received. Simply put, the inability of a receiver (e.g. FC HBA) to accept frames at the expected rate results in congestion. Congestion can occur due to misbehaving end devices, physical errors or oversubscription. Oversubscription due to the reasons outline above is typically the main culprit.

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Introducing the “Aware and Decisive” FC HBAs

Marvell’s QLogic Fibre Channel HBAs (aka. Mr. QLogic) and its StorFusion set of end-to-end orchestration and management capabilities are being extended to build a solution that is “aware” of the performance conditions of the SAN fabric and “decisive” in terms of the actions that it can take to prevent and mitigate the conditions like congestion, that can degrade the fabric and thus application performance.

Marvell QLogic Universal SAN Congestion Mitigation (USCM) technology works independently and in coordination with Brocade and Cisco FC fabrics to mitigate SAN congestion by enabling congestion detection, notification, and avoidance.  QLogic congestion “Awareness” capability means that it can either be informed of or automatically detect signs of congestion. QLogic “Decisive” action capability intends to prevent or resolve congestion by either switching traffic to a more optimized path or quarantining slower devices to lower priority virtual channels.

Available immediately, QLogic Enhanced 16GFC (2690 Series) and Enhanced 32GFC (2770 Series) Adapters have the ability to deliver a wide range of these SAN Congestion Management capabilities.

Preview of Part 2 and Part 3

If you think Mr. QLogic is up to something here and has the right vision, motivation and expertise to rescue FC SANs from Congestion, then come back again for the sequel(s).

In Part 2, I will talk about the underlying industry standards-based technology called “Fabric Performance Notification” (FPINs) that form the heart of the QLogic USCM solution.

In Part 3, you will see the technology in action and the uniqueness of the Marvell QLogic solution – for it is the one that can deliver on congestion management for both Brocade and Cisco SAN Fabrics.

August 12th, 2020

Put a Cherry on Top! Introducing FC-NVMe v2

By Nishant Lodha, Director of Product Marketing – Emerging Technologies, Marvell

Once upon a time, data centers confronted a big problem – how to enable business-critical applications on servers to access distant storage with exceptional reliability. In response, the brightest storage minds invented Fibre Channel. Its ultra-reliability came from being implemented on a dedicated network and buffer-to-buffer credits. For a real-life parallel, think of a guaranteed parking spot at your destination, and knowing it’s there before you leave your driveway. That worked fairly well. But as technology evolved and storage changed from spinning media to flash memory with NVMe interfaces, the same bright minds developed FC-NVMe. This solution delivered a native NVMe storage transport without necessitating rip-and-replace by enabling existing 16GFC and 32GFC HBAs and switches to do FC-NVMe. Then came a better understanding of how cosmic rays affect high-speed networks, occasionally flipping a subset of bits, introducing errors.

Challenges in High-Speed Networks

But cosmic rays aren’t the only cause of bit errors. Soldering issues, vibrations due to heavy industrial equipment, as well as hardware and software bugs are all problematic, too. While engineers have responded with various protection mechanisms – ECC memories, shielding and FEC algorithms, among others – bit errors and lost frames still afflict all modern high-speed networks. In fact, the higher the speed of the network (e.g. 32GFC), the higher the probability of errors. Obviously, errors are never good; detecting them and re-transmitting lost frames slows down the network. But things get worse when the detection is left to the upper layers (SCSI or NVMe protocols) that must overcome their own quirks and sluggishness. Considering the low latency and high resiliency data center operators expect from FC-NVMe, these errors must be handled more efficiently, and much earlier in the process. In response, industry leaders like Marvell QLogic, along with other Fibre Channel leaders, came together to define FC-NVMe v2.

Introducing FC-NVMe v2

Intending to detect and recover from errors in a manner befitting a low-latency NVMe transport, FC-NVMe v2 (standardized by the T11 committee in August 2020) does not rely on the SCSI or NVMe layer error recovery. Rather, it automatically implements low-level error recovery mechanisms in the Fibre Channel’s link layer – solutions that work up to 30x faster than previous methods. These new and enhanced mechanisms include:

  • FLUSH: A new FC-NVMe link service that can quickly determine if a sent frame does not quickly reach its destination. It works this way: if two seconds pass without the QLogic FC HBA getting a response back regarding a transmitted frame, it sends a FLUSH to the same destination (like sending a second car to the same parking spot, to see if is occupied). If the FLUSH gets to the destination, we know that the original frame went missing en route, and the stack does not need to wait the typical 60 seconds to detect a missing frame (hence the 30x faster).
  • RED: Another new FC-NVMe link service, called Responder Error Detected (RED), essentially does the same lost frame detection but in the other direction. If a receiver knows it was supposed to get something but did not, it quickly sends out a RED rather than waiting on the slower, upper-layer protocols to detect the loss.
  • NVMe_SR: Once either FLUSH or RED detects a lost frame, NVMe_SR (NVMe Retransmit) kicks in, and enables the re-transmission of whatever got lost the first time.

Complicated? Not at all — these work in the background, automatically. FLUSH, RED, and NVMe_SR are the cherries on top of great underlying technology to deliver FC-NVMe v2!

Marvell QLogic FC HBAs with FC-NVMe v2

Marvel leads the T11 standards committee that defined the FC-NVMe v2 standard, and later this year will enable support for FC-NVMe v2 in QLogic 2690 Enhanced 16GFC and 2770 Enhanced 32GFC HBAs. Customers should expect a seamless transition from FC-NVMe v2 via a simple software upgrade, fulfilling our promise to avoid a disruptive rip-and-replace modernization of existing Fibre Channel infrastructure.

So, for your business-critical applications that rely on Fibre Channel infrastructure, go for Marvell QLogic FC-NVMe v2, and shake off the sluggish error recovery, and do more with Fibre Channel! Learn more at Marvell.com.