Mellanox provides HPE’s first Ethernet storage switches in HPE StoreFabric M-Series

The M-Series family OEMed from Mellanox, which provide 100 GbE Ethernet connectivity, but also scale down to an SMB price point, provide HPE with a strong channel offering that has a large price-performance differential over Fibre Channel.

The HPE StoreFabric M-Series SN2100M

Last June at HPE Discover, interconnect vendor Mellanox made a major announcement with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, through which the Mellanox Spectrum Ethernet switch ASIC would power the first HPE Synergy Switch Module supporting native 25, 50, and 100 Gb/s Ethernet connectivity. Today Mellanox is making another major announcement with HPE. The Mellanox Ethernet Storage Fabric [ESF] will power HPE StoreFabric M-Series switches, to again provide 25, 50, and 100 Gb/s connectivity.

The Mellanox Ethernet Storage Fabric – which Mellanox is positioning for the first time in storage –  is an end-to-end storage networking solution. Its most critical part is the Mellanox Spectrum switch. Ideal for building storage and hyper-converged infrastructure clusters, these switches provide support for storage-specific monitoring, management, and automation through integration with storage arrays and  storage management software. They also provide container support for storage-aware software. In addition to the Spectrum switches, the Mellanox ESF includes their ConnectX adapters, BlueField storage array controller, and LinkX cables and modules.

“We’ve been offering Ethernet networking before, but we have added some new features specifically for storage, and HPE is positioning it for Ethernet storage,” said John Kim, Mellanox’s Director of Storage Marketing. “The changes to make it better suited for storage include better monitoring, better visualization, stronger GUIs,and storage-aware QoS. It provides better zoning and access control, and the ability to run containers on our switch, as well as other storage services. They can also be upgraded to add more features in the future.”

Kim said that a network renaissance is coming for Ethernet storage.

“Six years ago, Fibre Channel made sense for secure networking, back when the only thing that was important was block storage, and when storage was expensive, so it made sense to put it on expensive Fibre Channel,” he said.  “Now, the world of storage networking has changed. Fibre Channel still makes good profits for its vendors, but it’s not a growth area. It’s declining at 6 per cent CAGR, whereas Ethernet is increasing at 18 per cent CAGR. It simply fits better into today’s budgets.”

Kim also stressed that Fibre Channel networks, and the network has become a bottleneck. 80 per cent of storage capacity can’t work with Fibre Channel, or it’s too expensive to work with Fibre Channel. Object storage doesn’t work with it at all. Ethernet simply makes more sense. For that though, you need an Ethernet fabric with intelligence and efficiency.”

Kim said that Mellanox’s Ethernet can easily provide this.

“Just four of today’s NVMe SSDs can fill up a 100Gb link,” he said. “You need faster networking. Ethernet has 3x the bandwidth of Fibre Channel at 1/3 the price. On a port basis, it’s a 9x price-performance advantage.”

Kim noted that the Mellanox Fabric is providing HPE’s first venture into Ethernet storage switches.

“This will be HPE’s first Ethernet-based storage switches,” he said. “With the HPE Synergy deal, they took our Spectrum silicon. This one takes the Mellanox switches and their fabric, and relabels them as HPE. HPE is also offering flexible Ports-on-Demand licensing. That’s something we do not offer on our own switches.”

The HPE StoreFabric M-series 2410M

There are four models in the HPE StoreFabric M-series switches. They range from the SN2100M, with up to 16 40/100 GbE, through the SN2410bM and 2410M, which provide server and storage aggregation for 10 GbE and 25GbE respectively, up to the SN2700M. with up to 32 40/100GbE.

“HPE has chosen Spectrum because it is both flexible and future proofed,” Kim said.  “The network speeds upgrade seamlessly, so customers can upgrade speeds, and keep using the same switch at different speeds. Both the networking and adapters are proven at cloud scale. It’s also a full end-to-end solution for the storage fabric, where we provide all the parts.”

Kim also stressed that this will be an excellent channel product for the HPE channel.

“The M-series switches scale very high, but they also play down into the SMB,” he said. “This should be an exceptionally strong strong channel play, compared to Fibre Channel. Some of HPE’s recent acquisitions – SimpliVity and Nimble – are also mainly Ethernet.”