Virtualization of networks, storage, servers, and applications continues to grow in the data center. While virtualization provides many benefits, virtual deployment workloads have been increasing the demands placed on the network I/O infrastructure, which can significantly impact system and application performance. These additional demands could offset the performance gains created by virtualizing servers.
The challenges resulting from CPU utilization and storage virtualization have been actively addressed throughout the evolution of the virtualized data center, starting with virtualized memory. Guest operating systems soon came along in the form of virtual machines (VMs), followed by virtualized storage. Finally came direct I/O virtualization, making it possible to virtualize the I/O path from the server to the peripheral device.
Problem solved, right? Almost, but not quite. The methods used to resolve the first set of challenges in the virtualized data center created issues with workloads, provisioning, and managing storage and network infrastructure.
I/O virtualization resolves issues with performance and provisioning of server I/O in highly virtualized and clustered data centers. Two technology standards for I/O virtualization improve the scalability, flexibility, throughput, and latency performance of networking operations: Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) for individual servers and Multi Root I/O Virtualization for blade servers.
SR-IOV provides direct I/O resources to VMs, which will reduce host CPU utilization and system latency, while increasing networking I/O throughput. SR-IOV allows multiple VMs to bypass the hypervisor networking stack and pass I/O directly to a single PCIe device. The SR-IOV interface is an extension to the PCI Express specification, which allows a single PCIe device to provide multiple, lightweight hardware functions on the PCI bus and isolate access to its resources among the various virtual functions.
QLogic's new FlexSuite adapters feature virtualization-aware capabilities. QLogic 8300 Series converged network adapters, with SR-IOV support, help you achieve the true vision and benefits of a consolidated and virtualized data center. When you deploy QLogic FlexSuite adapters with SR-IOV support, the number of adapters can be reduced without compromising on service level agreement (SLA) delivery requirements. SR-IOV is now being supported by all major hypervisors and most of the latest-generation OEM servers.
QLogic's implementation of SR-IOV delivers significant advantages by providing complete isolation between VMs and best-in-class security—both requirements for virtualization and cloud deployments. QLogic enables high VM density by allowing up to 128 virtual functions per adapter, while maintaining line-rate throughput performance.
To see a short video on how to configure QLogic SR-IOV technology, click here: QLogic KnowHow: SR-IOV Configuration for QLogic 8300 Series Adapters.