Mellanox Takes the Lead at NVMe Plugfest to Simplify Deployment While Ensuring Interoperability

 
NVMe Over Fabrics

For two weeks during the last half of June, the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL) hosted this year’s NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory express) and NVMe-oF (NVMe-over Fabrics) plugfests. Each were four day events comprised of approximately ten companies coming together to test over 20 devices including NVMe initiators, drives and storage controllers. Mellanox Spectrum switches (including HPE StoreFabric M-series Storage Switches which are powered by Mellanox Spectrum) connected everything and ensured high-efficiency data movement while supporting the NVMe protocol. The goal for Mellanox, as with others, was to successfully test with as many of the attending companies devices as possible to instill confidence that products will work well in a multi-vendor environment. Ultimately, every vendor seeks to leave with their company’s product being placed on the NVME Integrators List or NVMe-oF Integrators List, which provide a directory of devices that have successfully completed the rigors of the UNH-IOL compliance and interoperability testing.

What is NVMe and NVMe-oF?

NVMe, a storage interface specification, was designed specifically to keep pace with the increasing speeds of solid-state drives (SSD) by allowing faster access. NVMe-oF allows for remote fabric access to flash storage with latency similar to local access over high performance networks such as Ethernet and InfiniBand.   To achieve direct attached levels of performance NVMe-oF is dependent on RDMA technology to provide for a high-throughput, low-latency network. Offering an order of magnitude performance improvement for storage is proving to be a strong driver for the adoption of NVMe. The shift to NVMe is happening now in the enterprise space for applications where top-end performance is necessary, resulting in NVMe becoming the new industry standard for high-performance storage access. With NVMe gaining traction, plugfests like this one provide companies a chance to test hardware and software standards, conformance and interoperability and offer an opportunity to validate product capabilities in a multivendor environment. This provides essential feedback to the vendor community at the event and ensure that when products are released to the public that they are reliable, robust and interoperable with other NVMe products.

Mellanox Attendance at the NVMe Plugfests

This was the 10th annual NVMe and the 9th annual NVMe-oF plugfest hosted by UNH-IOL. Mellanox has been a regular participant and joined the latest events with our ConnectX-5 EN adapters, our newest Spectrum Ethernet switch, the SN2010, and its bigger brother the SN2410. And for the first time, we brought our BlueField SmartNIC a system-on-chip (SoC) network adapter configured to front-end an NVMe-over Fabrics development platform flash array. With the completion of the latest UNH-IOL Plugfests and the past events Mellanox has attended, the entire Mellanox Ethernet portfolio has now been approved for inclusion within the UNH-IOL Integrator’s Lists. Updates to the latest plugfest may not yet be reflected on the Integrator’s Lists at this time, but look for updates to come soon.

Mellanox was also able to test NVMe compliance with our own Mellanox Onyx Network Operating Systems (NOS) which is ideal for Ethernet Storage Fabrics and with Cumulus Networks NOS..

UNH-IOL Test Procedure

To ensure the testing is comprehensive and robust, UNH-IOL has developed their very own IOL INTERACT Test Software. The IOL INTERACT Test Software is built on top of the tNVMe test tool developed for compliance testing (available on tNVMe GitHub). IOL INTERACT Test Software was debuted at the first NVMe plugfest and allows for a wide range of test scenarios to uncover a variety of bugs. Generally speaking, the IOL INTERACT Test Software is a quick, efficient and easy way of testing and is extremely useful for numerous NVMe devices. The test software is incorporated into the Universities NVMe test plans along with the UNH-IOL test scripts which are combined with protocol analyzers to provide interpretation and debug of data traffic. The protocol analyzers allow for fine-grain examination and tracing of commands (i.e., READ, WRITE, etc.), issued from/to the NVMe devices so that the interaction between them can be verified. This allows identification of devices that are not in compliance with the NVMe protocol and for debugging when there is interoperability issues.

PCIe Analyzer with Mixed NVMe Commands

Summary

Vendors attending the Plugfest seek to provide confidence in their devices compliance with the NVMe specification and to help foster multi-vendor interoperability. Successful completion of this rigorous testing results in the vendors’ products being listed on the UNH-IOL Integrator’s Lists, and Mellanox is pleased that our latest switches and BlueField SOCs have achieved compliance and interoperability. The Integrator’s Lists are designed to help support data center managers, integrators, CIOs and other IT decision makers with their planned NVMe deployments. They can verify device compliance and interoperability from both documents which are refreshed after each plugfest, including those hosted at UNH-IOL and one hosted in Wuhan, China to increase international exposure. This year’s testing saw an increase in companies attendance as well as devices, a trend that continues and illustrates the continued industry demand for NVMe solution that are capable of higher bandwidth and faster performance.

About Tim Lustig

Tim Lustig is the Director of Corporate Ethernet Marketing at Mellanox Technologies, Inc. As a professional in the networking industry, Tim Lustig has been at the forefront of marketing new networking technologies for over two decades. From his start in network and database administration to product marketing and corporate technologist roles, Lustig’s experience includes outbound marketing activities, third party testing/validation, strategic product marketing, market research, and technical writing. Lustig has written many papers and articles on multiple networking technologies, and has been a featured speaker at many industry conferences around the world. Prior to Mellanox Tim held positions at Brocade Communication as Sr. Product Marketing Manager and QLogic Corporation as the Director of Corporate Marketing. Tim Lustig currently sits on the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium marketing committee where he is an industry steward for the promotion of 25, 50 and 100Gb Ethernet. Follow Tim on Twitter: @tlustig

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