As pointed out in the professional alert Virtual IO takes off in 2010, the traditional way of configuring servers is to 'purpose-architect' solutions for each application. For example, administrators will typically configure database servers with high-spin-speed FC drives and FC host bus adapters (HBA), along with separate cards to handle smaller amounts of Ethernet traffic. Web servers, on the other hand, might have a front-end server resource specifically architected to spread the load across a server farm and configured to handle significant Ethernet traffic. Both servers would need multiple HBA cards that are used inefficiently.
This approach of uniquely configuring servers for applications drives server and HBA card utilizations down; however organizations have had little choice but to sacrifice efficiency to meet the service level demands for core applications.
Virtualizing the I/O solves the inefficiency problem by allowing all traffic to use a single card and making a single server configuration adaptable to running all virtual workloads. Adoption of this solution will be widespread and rapid. By 2013, Wikibon expects that 70% of new virtual servers will be configured with virtual I/O.
A significant proportion of the I/O virtualization will optimize storage and Ethernet protocols, and Wikibon expects that IT organizations (ITOs) will adopt virtualized I/O through what we refer to as VCNAs (virtual converged network adapters).
The five trends driving this prediction are:
- The increasing adoption of server virtualization and the desire to virtualize more mission critical applications.
- Intel's delivery of the Nehalem-EX massive 2.3 billion transistor processor with up to 8 cores and 16 threads per processor. The architecture of the server reduces the overheads of virtual I/O significantly and enables the deployment of production virtual servers with very high I/O rates.
- The slow but inevitable adoption of 10 GigE and FCoE.
- The need to reduce the number of cables inside server racks and automate/simplify server reconfiguration.
- Vendor investment driving this direction.
Early adoption of this virtual I/O trend can be seen as vendors plan to use Virtual CNAs to drive network convergence. Cisco, EMC, IBM, and NetApp have either announced their intention to integrate or have begun shipping QLogic's 8100 CNAs. Recently Emulex announced it has secured a design win at Verari. In addition, it was announced today (12/10/2009) that Dell is embedding QLogic's CNAs in a wide range of its PowerEdge servers.
The bottom line is that organizations should start down the path to virtual I/O by kicking the 10GigE and FCoE tires in pilots and POCs and then rapidly adopt the technology as the means of driving cost out of networking, storage and server infrastructure.
Action Item: Virtualization is spreading throughout the entire data center and will permeate IO next in the form of 'virtual' converged network adapters. ITOs should plan to take advantage of this technology trend especially in virtualized environments to ensure maximum asset leverage.