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Windows Server 2012 : Increase scalability and performance (part 6) - Virtual Fibre Channel, SMB 3

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2/8/2014 1:00:10 AM

6. Virtual Fibre Channel

Existing technologies often present obstacles when considering the migration of your server workloads into the cloud. An example of this might be if you have an AlwaysOn failover cluster instance running on SQL Server 2012 that’s configured to use a Fibre Channel SAN for high performance. You’d like to migrate this workload into the cloud, but Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 does not support directly connecting to Fibre Channel from within VMs. As a result, you’ve postponed performing such a migration because you want to protect your existing investment in expensive Fibre Channel technology.

Virtual Fibre Channel removes this blocking issue by providing Fibre Channel ports within the guest operating system of VMs on Hyper-V hosts running Windows Server 2012. This now allows a server application like SQL Server running within the guest operation system of a VM to connect directly to LUNs on a Fibre Channel SAN.

Implementing this kind of solution requires that the drivers for your HBAs support Virtual Fibre Channel. Some HBAs from Brocade and QLogic already include such updated drivers, and more vendors are expected to follow. Virtual Fibre Channel also requires that you connect only to LUNs, and you can’t use a LUN as boot media for your VMs.

Virtual Fibre Channel also provides the benefits of allowing you to use any advanced storage functionality of your existing SAN directly from your VMs. You can even use it to cluster guest operating systems over Fibre Channel to provide high availability for VMs.

Note that VMs must use Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, or Windows Server 2012 as the guest operating system if they are configured with a virtual Fibre Channel adapter.

7. SMB 3

Windows Server 2012 introduces SMB 3, version 3 of the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol to provide powerful new features for continuously available file servers. SMB is a network file sharing protocol that allows applications to read and write to files and to request services from services over a network. (Note that some documentation on TechNet and MSDN still refer to this version as SMB 3.)

The improvements in SMB 3 are designed to provide increased performance, reliability, and availability in scenarios where data is stored on file shares. Some of the new features and enhancements in SMB 3 include:

  • SMB Direct Enables using network adapters capable of Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) such as iWARP, Infiniband, or RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet) that can function at full speed and low latency with very little processor overhead on the host. When such adapters are used on Hyper-V hosts, you can store VM files on a remote file server and achieve performance similar to if the files were stored locally on the host.

    SMB Direct makes possible a new class of file servers for enterprise environments, and the new File Server role in Windows Server 2012 demonstrates these capabilities in full. Such file servers experience minimal processor utilization for file storage processing and the ability to use high-speed RDMA-capable NICs including iWARP, InfiniBand, and RoCE. They can provide remote storage solutions equivalent in performance to Fibre Channel, but at a lower cost. They can use converged network fabrics in datacenters and are easy to provision, manage, and migrate.

  • SMB Directory Leasing Reduces round-trips from client to server because metadata is retrieved from a longer living directory cache. Cache coherency is maintained as clients are notified when directory information changes on the server. The result of using SMB Directory Leasing can be improved application response times, especially in in branch office scenarios.

  • SMB Encryption Enables end-to-end encryption of SMB data to protect network traffic from eavesdropping when travelling over untrusted networks. SMB Encryption can be configured either on a per-share basis or for the entire file server. It adds no cost overhead and removes the need for configuring IPsec and using specialized encryption hardware and WAN accelerators.

  • SMB Multichannel Allows aggregation of network bandwidth and network fault tolerance when multiple paths become available between the SMB client and the SMB server. The benefit of this that it allows server applications to take full advantage of all available network bandwidth. The result is that your server applications become more resilient to network failure.

    SMB Multichannel configures itself automatically by detecting and using multiple network paths when they become available. It can use NIC teaming failover but doesn’t require such capability to work. Possible scenarios can include:

    • Single NIC, but using Receive-Side Scaling (RSS) enables more processors to process the network traffic

    • Multiple NICs with NIC Teaming, which allows SMB to use a single IP address per team

    • Multiple NICs without NIC Teaming, where each NIC must have a unique IP address and is required for RDMA-capable NICs

  • SMB Scale Out Allows you to create file shares that provide simultaneous access to data files with direct I/O through all the nodes in your file server cluster. The result is improved use of network bandwidth and load balancing of the file server clients, and also optimization of performance for server applications. SMB Scale Out requires using CSV version 2, which is included in Windows Server 2012, and lets you seamlessly increase available bandwidth by adding cluster nodes.

  • SMB Transparent Failover Allows administrators to perform hardware or software maintenance of nodes in a clustered file server without interruption to server applications storing their data on file shares. If a hardware or software failure happens on a cluster node, SMB clients will reconnect transparently to another cluster node with no interruption for server applications storing data on these shares.

    SMB Transparent Failover supports both planned failovers (such as maintenance operations) and unplanned failovers (for example, due to hardware failure). Implementing this feature requires the use of failover clustering, that both the server running the application and the file server are running Windows Server 2012, and that the file shares on the file server have been shared for continuous availability.

The implementation of SMB 3 in Windows Server 2012 also includes new SMB performance counters that can provide detailed, per-share information about throughput, latency, and I/O per second (IOPS). These counters are designed for server applications like Hyper-V and SQL Server, which can store files on remote file shares to enable administrators to analyze the performance of the file shares where server application data is stored.

 
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