Blades and Storage in .NET

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CHAPTER
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Blades and Storage
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In many ways, the options for storage and storage connectivity with blades are the same as with standard servers. A blade, after all, is a server in a different form. However, given that some of the appeal of blades is simplicity of management and the ability to move seamlessly to another blade in the event of a failure, some implementation choices for storage should be considered. This chapter reviews the way that storage is accessed in a traditional server platform and contrasts it to storage options in blade-server systems. Storage implementation and access alternatives are discussed, along with typical business reasons for making various implementation decisions.
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I/O Architectures and Buses
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Since the early 1990s when the PCI bus was introduced, most servers and PCs have relied on it as the I/O bus of choice. For the most part, this bus architecture has not changed. In the past 10 15 years, the increase in speed of the processors has significantly outpaced the performance of the PCI bus, leading to data-starved CPUs. In an attempt to keep up, the PCI-X specification was created, which essentially took PCI from a 32-bit bus to a 64-bit bus. This increase basically doubled
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Part II
A Closer Look
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PCI s address space, increasing its parallel transmission capabilities. The PCI-X specification also increased the clock rate from 66MHz to 133MHz, allowing for 1Gbps bandwidth. Since then, additional upgrades have been made to the PCI-X specification, primarily to increase bandwidth; however, these changes still have not been enough to keep up with the changing CPUs. As discussed in 6, in an attempt to remedy this situation, in the late 1990s two competing interconnect standards for converged networking were developed the Future I/O (FIO) and the Next-Generation I/O standards. Knowing that only one would win out in the markets, the two standards were merged and became InfiniBand. The InfiniBand I/O specification has met with some success, but people like to stick with what they already know. Hence, a next-generation PCI architecture based on a point-to-point switched approach was developed, called PCI Express (PCI-E). This latest specification offers many of the same benefits as InfiniBand, but only for local devices. Although InfiniBand solutions are available for switch modules and blade InfiniBand adapters (for blades to communicate with other blades in the chassis as well as devices outside the chassis), PCI Express has become the onboard I/O interconnect of choice for blade systems. With the PCI-E specification, the programming interface remained primarily the same, making upgrading to the newest specification much easier than changing I/O architectures altogether. PCI-E provides scalable bandwidth of 16Gb per second. It is a generalpurpose serial I/O interconnect (providing bandwidth and scalability advantages over the previous parallel interfaces of PCI and PCI-X), with the benefit of compatibility with previous PCI programming models. All other interconnect technologies within the blade chassis (GbE Ethernet, Fibre Channel [FC], and InfiniBand [IB]), as well as any other local devices such as hard-disk drives (HDD), connect into the onboard PCI Express as shown in Figure 7.1.
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Gbps Ethernet I/O expansion adapter (Ethernet, FC, or IB) PCI-X/PCI-E Blade subsystems Server blade
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Figure 7.1: Blade I/O diagram
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7
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Blades and Storage
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InfiniBand is primarily used in clustered environments or other applications where very high-speed/low-latency interprocessor communication is required. (In the blade environment, the IB switch module can provide this function for intrachassis blade communications as well as for connecting blades in multiple chassis or traditional servers outside the chassis.) Blade server systems with IB switch modules may also use InfiniBand to Ethernet and/or FC gateways for converged LAN and SAN connectivity. There has been talk about replacing PCI-E with InfiniBand because IB is inherently a high-speed switched environment that also provides RDMA capabilities and extends to remote devices.
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Blades and Storage Connections
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All blades come standard with (at minimum) a 1Gbps Ethernet connection (NIC) to communicate with the standard Ethernet switch modules in the backplane. Some blades come standard with dual ports for redundancy. If your applications need either additional NICs or faster Ethernet bandwidth (10GbE NICs are available), a daughter/mezzanine card can be attached onto the I/O expansion adapter on the blade. Depending on the blade vendor, up to two additional expansion cards can be supported. If the blades within the chassis need to connect to a Fibre Channel SAN, you can also add a Fibre Channel adapter (HBA daughter card) to each blade requiring access. The HBA then communicates to one or two shared Fibre Channel switch modules in the backplane. If instead you require the highbandwidth/low-latency converged interconnect offered by InfiniBand, you can add an InfiniBand adapter card onto the appropriate blades to communicate with a shared IB switch module. Blade chassis generally support Ethernet switch modules and one type of high-speed switching in the backplane, either IB or FC (see Figure 7.2).
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Gbps Ethernet Ethernet Ethernet Fibre Channel Fibre Channel Switch modules Midplane Server blade I/O expansion adapter (Ethernet NIC, FC HBA, or IB HCA) PCI-X/PCI-E Blade subsystems
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