You know what storage needs? More doughnuts to flatten us up

Flatter hierachies, fewer hops: Rockport and the Torus interconnect

Ditch the switch

The networking nodes can be servers and filer arrays in scale-out cluster form with the data messages dealing with file IO requests. Each node will have Rockport software running in a chip with ports to the Direct Interconnect mesh. There is no longer any need for switches or routers, so rack space devoted to these can be recovered and used for processors running virtual machines, meaning more chargeable resource and income for cloud service providers.

Today, the Rockport solution can perform at 200Gbit/s comprised of 8 x 25Gbit/s ports per data node with internodal hop delays equal to 80 nanoseconds; PCIe-class bandwidth rate. Rockport contrasts this with a server-to-server connection using three switches and taking up to 3.12msecs. In effect the network is moved closer to compute.

Rockport’s software operates at layer 2, the data link layer or node-to-node data transfer, in the OSI model. The network is not sniff-able and has inherent security. Rockport says its network can scale from 80Gbps to 200Gbps to 800Gbps without any switching hardware. It can also scale up to more than 160,000 nodes in a single mesh.

If a server (node) goes down, then data is redirected. The network is fault-tolerant, with up to 8 paths per node (for a 4D mesh, 12 paths for a 6D mesh). New nodes are auto-discovered, the system auto-configures, and scales up or down as needed. The Rockport software provides shortest path computations and traffic distribution with flow-control to avoid network hot spots. Pass-through features reduce internodal hop delay. A Fabric Manager provides network management functions with the network configured through programming (software).

Scale out, not scale up

Rockport has an office in Palo Alto and is working on a funding round and developing OEM-type processes. Its product technology has been validated in early proof-of-concept installations. The software will be sold on a subscription basis with an optional perpetual pricing scheme. The Rockport scheme provides, it says, both significant CAPEX and OPEX savings.

The first application focus is scale-out file storage systems which have a need for consistent and reliable performance as the number of nodes and users scale out and up.

ESG Founder and senior analyst Steve Duplessie says of Rockport’s scheme: “It’s not the hardware anymore. Switching is a software function. The whole idea of the core/edge hierarchical switch architecture seems way last century with today’s CPU capabilities. Why not have a flat horizontal network that gets fatter when necessary - based on application requirements? Scale out networking – no need for scale up.”

Oprea says servers could well need 1Tbit/s interconnect bandwidth by 2020. The Rockport torus Direct Interconnect scheme can ramp up bandwidth merely by adding network link end-points to these servers, with no need for additional switches, routes, etc. The bandwidth can ramp up from 10Gbit/s to 25Gbit/s through 40Gbit/s 100Gbit/s and on to 1Tbit/s, driven by software and with less than 1 microsecond needed to cross the network from any source node to any target node because of the hop-reduction characteristic identified by Oprea.

My thinking is that this scheme could conceivably be of interest to disk drive manufacturers with directly addressed, object-storing disk drives – think Seagate and WD – as well as to scale-out filers like IBM, EMC, HP and NetApp products... also flash array orgs like SanDisk, SolidFire and others. Torus-based storage networking could flatten network hierarchies and finally deliver software-defined networking. ®

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