On March 20th, 2012, the Wikibon community held a Peer Incite to discuss the impact of Intel’s Xeon E5-2600 processor family on the adoption of 10Gb Ethernet. McLeod Glass, Director of HP Industry Standard Servers, and Greg Scherer, VP of Server and Storage Strategy at Broadcom, joined the call.
Intel Xeon E5 Support for 10Gb Ethernet
Outside of blade servers, motherboards based upon previous generations of Xeon processors did not have embedded 10GbE. The Xeon E5-2600 family extends the reach of 10 GbE LAN on motherboards (LOMs) to rack and tower servers. Prior to the Xeon E5, bandwidth out of the server acted as a constraint on application performance, particularly in highly-consolidated, virtualized environments.
Latest generation servers from HP, Dell, IBM, and Cisco, among others, leverage PCI-Express 3 controllers. This enables a balanced system, where bandwidth out of the servers more closely matches the bandwidth within the servers. This is particularly important when servers require access to external, direct-attached or SAN-attached storage.
Throughput-Intensive Workloads, the Logical First Step
Certain workloads stand out as prime targets for migration to Xeon E5-2600 based servers and 10GbE. Possible application choices include streaming video, high-performance computing, and big data. These applications will create the least disruption and offer the fastest time-to-value. At the same time, some workloads, such as large database, single-image environments, where the focus is on latency rather than throughput, will continue most cost-effectively operating on Westmere-EX based servers.
Virtualization Drives Need for High-Performance, Meshed Network
Highly-virtualized environments represent the logical second step in 10GbE deployments. Three-tiered architectures of the past took the form of a database layer, an application layer, and a presentation layer. Each layer ran on dedicated, physical servers and each layer connected to the next, leveraging a network layer tuned for its specific section of the service-delivery stack. With the broader adoption of virtualization, servers will less-frequently be dedicated to a single application and applications less-frequently dedicated to a single server. As a result, networks, will need to be higher-performance, dynamic, and meshed, to support the fact that workloads may migrate from one server to another at any time.
In a highly virtualized infrastructure, the physical layer of the application stack will change more rapidly than the logical. To ease migration and management challenges in a virtualized world, CIOs should leverage tools that present a logical view of the network that is consistent with the today’s physical view.
Action Item: With the advent of embedded 10GbE, CIOs should begin evaluating the performance of throughput-intensive applications on the latest generation of Xeon E5-2600 based servers. Beyond that, applications running on virtualized servers represent the next logical phase of 10GbE exploitation. Longer term, organizations may want to consider eliminating siloed management for converged server and storage network infrastructures, but in larger organizations this will require substantial organizational change and new ways of monitoring and managing performance.