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Mellanox’ network adaptors address cloud performance concerns

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Mellanox’ network adaptors address cloud performance concerns
Anton Jacobsz, CEO, Networks Unlimited

With the adoption of cloud computing set to soar exponentially over the next year as an increasing number of core business applications are moved off-site1, so pressure on cloud, network and data centre administrators to provide faster, more reliable and more scalable cloud services will soar.

That’s the view of Anton Jacobsz, CEO at Networks Unlimited Africa. He points out that computing resources are only as fast as the slowest link in the information supply chain. Networks Unlimited Africa is a value-added distributor of converged technology, data centre, networking and security technology solutions, and distributes Mellanox’ intelligent interconnect solutions throughout the continent.

In its Predictions 2019: Cloud Computing report 2, Forrester Research estimates that the global cloud computing market will top $200 billion, representing a growth rate of more than 20 per cent. This exponential trajectory is likely to continue, accompanied by a rise in data volumes which will test cloud performance capability and capacity to the hilt. As Mellanox Technologies notes in its white paper “Optimize your Cloud with the Right Network Adaptors”, this will result in an ever-increasing load on CPU utilisation.

According to Jacobsz, overlay network protocols, Open vSwitch (OVS) processing, massive storage access, and other high-performance workloads all require intensive processing which, as Mellanox notes, “wastes expensive CPU cycles, clogs the path to the network and ultimately leaves a lot of bandwidth unutilised.”

The result, says Jacobsz, is that the cloud itself becomes inefficient – slow, unreliable and unable to scale to meet the increasing demand.

“What’s needed are intelligent, flexible networks that can meet applications and storage requirements, and offload as many networking tasks as possible, in order to free up CPU resources to serve more users and process more data,” he explains.

“This can be achieved through the utilisation of smart network adaptors that can deliver three key benefits: high performance, network intelligence and improved scalability.”

1. High performance.
The growth in demand for cloud services requires more virtual machines (VMs) to deliver more applications and more data to more users. This translates into increasing rates of bandwidth – as much as 100Gb/s (Gigabit per second) to optimise cloud efficiency. However, flexible data centres may also require the inclusion of various speed rates that could vary from 25Gb/s and 50Gb/s to 100Gb/s.

“It is no longer the type of connectivity that is important. Clouds today require a range of solutions according to the size of the compute node and the storage servers,” Jacobsz explains.

It’s with these “need for speed” requirements in mind that Mellanox developed its ConnextX adaptor family (ConnextX-4 and ConnextX-4 Lx). With rates ranging from 10Gb/s to 50Gb/s and even 100Gb/s in the case of the Mellanox ConnectX-4, these devices enable the cloud to grow as needed without the need to replace hardware or software.

2. Network Intelligence.
Today’s data centres need to be able to share the processing workloads between various components rather than expect the CPU to deal with the entire burden alone. This requires intelligent network offloads and advanced acceleration capabilities such as remote direct memory access (RDMA), TCP, overlay networks and storage offloads.

With their ability to parse and understand network overlay protocols including Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN), Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation (NVGRE), and Generic Network Virtualization Encapsulation (GENEVE), Mellanox adapters can offload their network processing. According to Mellanox, this enables bandwidth, greatly improved VM density, and far better CPU utilisation.

3. Improved scalability.
The network layer today plays a significant role in the ability of the cloud to scale as the acceleration of the network can enable an increase in the number of VMs per server, despite the fact that hypervisor or virtual machine monitor (VMM) networking software can seriously impair VM performance. However, the utilisation of networking technologies such as single root input/output virtualisation (SR-IOR) and OVS (Open vSwitch), allows for improvement in the performance of even low-latency-high-bandwidth applications when run from VMs.

Mellanox enables direct VM access to the network by enabling SR-IOV, improving the performance of virtual machines. Mellanox technology also allows for improved connectivity on storage access.

“This means cloud administrators can pass on the benefits of the lowest latency and highest bandwidth to users, without wasting any additional load on the CPU,” Jacobsz says.

“All this not only translates into improved performance and CPU utilisation, it reduces costs and improve efficiencies. In fact, Mellanox adaptors provide one of the most unique combinations of advantages for cloud deployments, eliminating many of the concerns potential users may have about moving the bulk of their enterprise computing off-site and into the cloud,” he concludes.

The link to the Mellanox white paper is available for download.

Staff Writer

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