Enterprise networking technology has always been primarily about bandwidth, throughput, IOPS and other measurements of speed. But as 10 GbE, 8 G Fibre Channel and 20 G Infiniband push the data equivalent of Mach I, the focus is starting to shift toward more intelligent forms of networking.
Part of this movement has vendors focusing on Quality of Service (QoS) as a means to devise high-speed lanes for the more important data. Riva Chalaka, vice president of marketing at Neterion, recently explained it this way:
"Most 10 GbE systems have been about throughput and performance. This is important, but it doesn't solve the problem of quality. When you have seven or eight workloads and one is simple FTP data that is blocking the data path, more mission critical applications may have to wait because of the first-in/first-out environment in most networks. So even though you have more bandwidth, you'll still see congestion, bottlenecks, degradation and poor overall responsiveness of mission-critical applications."
Neterion is addressing that problem through a new technology, I/O Quality of Service (IOQoS), being deployed across its line of 10 GbE adapters. The system relies on hypervisor-based software that establishes independent channels within the adapter to guarantee bandwidth for high-priority data. The company says a side benefit is that you will be able to create more virtual machines within a single physical server, even if those machines are running I/O-intensive applications.
QoS is being implemented in other network elements as well. PLX Technology recently unveiled a new line of ExpressLane PCIe switches featuring an integrated direct memory access (DMA) engine and programmable QoS. The device supports QoS through two virtual channels per port and a descriptor ring architecture that provides up to 256 data descriptors.
Networked storage is implementing QoS capability through new RAID configurations. iStor Networks' new management interface, the integraSuite/MC Management Center, supports multiple RAID levels on individual drives to enable tailored QoS levels for multiple applications, even in mixed virtual environments.
QoS is also heading down market. The small office/home office (SOHO) community is warming up to the free Untangle gateway appliance, which was recently bolstered with QoS features like upload/download allowance capabilities and new port and host management features that can be tailored to specific applications. The appliance can be downloaded here.
Don't get me wrong -- network speed is a crucial element for advanced data center operations. But let's face it, not all data is created equal. Adding a QoS component to your architecture is one way to get more mileage out of network upgrades because it helps you differentiate between the vital and the routine.