Mar 15, 2016

Breaking Flash – Why Your Infrastructure Might Let You Down

Many data centers are moving to flash-based arrays to respond to the performance and agility expectations of the organization. Flash promises low latent storage systems will keep pace with increasing density of the virtual environment; it also promises scaling up mission critical applications. As IT professionals head down this path, danger lurks behind the scenes and can cause flash to break its promises regarding infrastructure. Good Enough is No Longer Good Enough In an attempt to keep infrastructure in step with environments’ performance demands and storage systems’ performance capabilities, an innumerable amount IT professionals set an infrastructure upgrade to 16Gbps Fibre Channel (FC) as a high priority. The high-speed, deterministic nature of 16Gbps FC essentially accords to flash, but the data center cabling infrastructure is probably not. As we increase from 8Gbps to 16Gbps, the infrastructure becomes less tolerant of link or signal loss between connections. In the past, errors caused by low quality or exorbitant connections allowed unnoticeable latency. However now with 16Gbs FC, previously unnoticeable latency becomes detectable. Troubleshooting Nightmare Troubleshooting perpetuates is the most substantial challenge within cable infrastructure. Problems with infrastructure don't manifest themselves as cabling issues. However, they appear as a non-responsive database or a virtual infrastructure which consistently encounters high latency spikes. As a result, data center operations and storage administrators waste time troubleshooting problems unrelated to the root cause. The real culprit hides behind the scenes and creates havoc. Read This First The only real answer to these connection problems is to eliminate them before they occur. The solution is moving away from Campus LAN connectivity strategies to structured connectivity (as we describe in our entry "What is True Structured Connectivity") BEFORE upgrading to 16Gbps, a new director-class switch or a new all-flash array. How Does Structured Connectivity Solve Problems? Structured connectivity is ideal for the rapidly changing data center because it allows moves, adds, and changes without touching active equipment. It also helps in the troubleshooting process because it limits the number of connections that need verification while diagnosing a problem. In fact, one of the unique capabilities of Data Center Systems (DCS) is our ability to custom design a patch panel that perfectly matches port configuration of your director class switch gear which we call a “Mimic Panel”. Its purpose assures “Port One” on your director class switch is also “Port One” on the panel. A structured connectivity solution also has reduced troubleshooting time due to fewer connections needed to review as compared to a Campus LAN connectivity strategy. Finally, a requirement of a DCS Structured Connectivity Solution is documentation of the environment as we go through the implementation process. Managed documentation allows you to know the exact purpose of every connection in your data center. Eliminate the Problem Before It Occurs The real answer is to eliminate the problem before it occurs. Structured connectivity is part of the solution that includes custom designing and manufacturing high-quality fibre optics for your data center. For maximum quality, we do not outsource this process. DCS has a team of fiber optic professionals who have 20-plus years of experience. Problem elimination also means testing the cables before, during and after implementation to confirm they are in adherence with or above the standards. Infrastructure Matters Before you move to all-flash, a new director-class switch or both, take a hard look at your cable infrastructure. While you may have upgraded cable types, does your design meet the rigorous standards high-speed, low latency networks and devices require? A flash array may not break your infrastructure, but it may expose its weaknesses. Eliminate those weaknesses before they occur.