RoCE has Crossed the Chasm

 
Ethernet, ,

In my previous post, I outlined how Gartner and The Register were predicting a gloomy outcome for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and made the assertion that in contrast RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) had quite a rosy future.  The key here is that RoCE has crossed the chasm from technology enthusiasts and early adopters to mainstream buyers.

 

In his eponymous book, Moore outlines that the main challenge of Crossing the Chasm is that the Early Majority are pragmatists interested in the quality, reliability, and business value of a technology. Whereas visionaries and enthusiasts relish new, disruptive technologies; the pragmatist values solutions that integrate smoothly into the existing infrastructure. Pragmatists prefer well established suppliers and seek references from other mature customers in their industry. And pragmatists look for technologies where there is a competitive multi-vendor eco-system that gives them flexibility, bargaining power, and leverage.

To summarize the three key requirements needed for a technology to cross the chasm are:

  1. Demonstration that the technology delivers clear business value
  2. Penetration of key beachhead in a mainstream market
  3. Multi-vendor, competitive ecosystem of suppliers

 

On all three fronts RoCE has crossed the chasm.

Demonstration that the Technology Delivers Clear Business Value

A technology demonstration at the recent Ignite conference Microsoft demonstrated the clear value proposition of RoCE enabled 100Gb Ethernet networks combined with advanced storage technologies.

Kevin D 081215 Fig1

 

Kevin D 081215 Fig2

 

Using RoCE technology the Microsoft Storage Spaces platform achieved actual throughput to NVMe flash storage of over 11GBytes/sec – the remote storage achieving the same performance reached with locally attached storage. Compared to un-accelerated transport RoCE achieved:

  • 2X Higher Throughput
  • 2X Lower Latency
  • Dramatically Improved CPU Efficiency

 

Perhaps even more importantly in an earlier demonstration with 40GbE RoCE at the Microsoft Keynote at the Open Networking Summit conference  Albert Greenberg (Director of Development, Azure Networking) discussed the clear business value of RoCE:

 

“To make storage cheaper we use lots more network! How do we make Azure Storage scale? RoCE (RDMA over Ethernet) enabled at 40GbE for Windows Azure Storage, achieving massive COGS savings compared to software transport. … Just so we’re clear … 40Gb/s of I/O with 0% CPU”

 

Penetration of Key Beachhead in a Mainstream Market

The second key to crossing the chasm as outlined in Moore’s book is demonstrating business momentum with the early majority by establishing a beachhead in a mainstream market. RoCE has clearly demonstrated that it has established a beachhead in the storage market. This was clear evidence at the recent Flash Memory Summit where RoCE technology was central to demonstrations by:

  • Mangstor
  • Memblaze
  • Micron
  • PMC Sierra
  • Samsung
  • SanDisk
  • Saratoga Speed

 

These companies demonstrated a range of storage technologies leveraging RoCE including: Ceph (software-defined storage), iSER( iSCSI over RDMA), NVMe over Fabrics (NVMoF) and Phase Change Memory.

 

In particular the newly emerging NVMoF standard (which requires RDMA) is a segment where RoCE has become the de facto standard as the storage interconnect. This is evidenced by nearly all of the all of the major flash providers and new Flash system vendors showcasing pre-standard demonstrations of NVMoF over RoCE at the Flash Memory Summit.

 

Multi-vendor, Competitive Ecosystem of Suppliers

The final element required to cross the chasm is a multi-vendor ecosystem available to supply the technology. This is needed as the pragmatists that make up the early majority like to see competition from market leaders and the development of third party value-added suppliers supporting the underlying technology. This ecosystem provides flexibility and negotiation power.

 

Once again RoCE stands out as having crossed the chasm with a major proof point of a multi-vendor ecosystem being the recent announcement of the RoCE-Initiative.  This initiative is supported by multiple members of the IBTA including:

  • Emulex/Avago
  • IBM
  • Mellanox
  • Microsoft

 

In addition, other mainstream suppliers have publicly announced support for RoCE technology including:

 

Furthermore, only RoCE has been adopted by mainstream Cloud and Web 2.0 providers, as the preferred RDMA technology, with millions of endpoints deployed and in active service at some of the largest hyper-scale data centers in the world.

 

Summary

Crossing the chasm is hard as the demise of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) technology clearly illustrates. As Gartner’s hype cycle shows, after the initial glow of overstated expectations there is the normal descent into the Trough of Despair. Only technologies that can cross the proverbial chasm will make it out of the dreaded Trough and move on to enlightenment and productivity. To do this a technology needs to demonstrate clear business value, penetration of a key mainstream beachhead market and a robust multi-vendor ecosystem. RoCE has demonstrated all of these and has, thus, crossed the chasm.

About Kevin Deierling

Kevin Deierling has served as Mellanox's VP of marketing since March 2013. Previously he served as VP of technology at Genia Technologies, chief architect at Silver Spring Networks and ran marketing and business development at Spans Logic. Kevin has contributed to multiple technology standards and has over 25 patents in areas including wireless communications, error correction, security, video compression, and DNA sequencing. He is a contributing author of a text on BiCmos design. Kevin holds a BA in Solid State Physics from UC Berkeley. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @TechseerKD

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