Moving from Block to Cloud: Emulex E3S

by Dave Graham on June 18, 2009



It’s not often that I get excited about technology within the storage space. There are notables, of course, mostly that take my love for high bandwidth interconnects (e.g. Infiniband, Rapid I/O) and mash them up with high-speed storage (EFDs, Fusion-IO). That being said, when it comes to the cloud, I’m absolutely estatic when off-the-shelf components can be utilized to get your data from the realm of block-based storage into the cloud-esque realm of object-based storage. Today, we’ll do a quick high level overview of one such technology gives you the freedom of moving from block to cloud (and back).

Emulex has historically been one of THE block storage enablers via their excellent line of Fibre Channel HBAs (host bus adapters) as well as their upcoming line of FCoE CNAs (Fibre Channel over Ethernet Converged Networking Adapters). This product, coming from Emulex’s Embedded Storage Products division), is a proactive approach with a technology that will enable customers to virtualize block data into the cloud with a minimal amount of overhead. Let’s take a look at a high level overview of the Emulex JBOC solution.

Emulex E3S conceptual diagram

Emulex E3S conceptual diagram


As you can see from this diagram, the Emulex E3S integrates into your existing fabric with relative ease. Note that for the purposes of this discussion, I’m only focused on SAN architecture, not NAS. Your hosts continue to process data to their respective storage targets as usual and the Emulex E3S device acts like a traditional block storage target (SAS or FC disks). As blocks are written to the E3S virtual disks, the E3S software virtualizes the changed blocks and compresses, encrypts, and re-packages the data into your chosen cloud storage protocol (e.g. EMC Atmos). In this way, you’re able to maintain consistent copies of data both in your local datacenter as well as in your private cloud. This is all well and good but what about recovering your data? Using the same process of encapsulation, the Emulex E3S can retrieve your data from your private cloud, unpack the meta-data and extents and present the original SCSI block data back to your hosts, all using traditional SCSI semantics.

Closing Thoughts:
I’ve keep this short and sweet and there’s definitely a lot of room to delve into the specific features present in the Emulex E3S system. Where I see this fitting rather nicely is in highly virtualized environments where software middleware connectors to the cloud just cannot keep up with the I/O activity being presented in the environment. Additional fitment could be present within the backup and archive space as moving your block data to cheaper object-based cloud storage would enable you to have quick backup and recovery times with minimal CapEx or infrastructure overhauls. I, for one, look forward to the further development of E3S as a full product offering.

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