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Marvell Connects SSDs to Ethernet

September 25, 2018

Author: Bob Wheeler

Marvell is sampling a unique storage-controller chip that con­nects an SSD directly to an Ethernet network. The 88SN2400 enables a new storage-array architecture based on Ethernet instead of PCI Express. It connects with an NVMe SSD using a PCIe Gen3 x4 interface, and it implements NVMe Over Fabrics (NVMe-oF) on a 25G Ethernet (25GbE) port. To complete the system design, a customer connects multiple 88SN2400 chips to a 25GbE switch chip such as Marvell’s Bobcat 3. The switch chip provides multiple 100Gbps Ethernet (100GbE) ports for external-network connections.

The company designed the 88SN2400 for 25Gbps of throughput, yielding 690,000 I/O operations per second (IOPS) for a 4KB block size. It withheld internal details, but the chip supports NVMe-oF using RoCEv2 as well as the emerging NVMe-over-TCP protocol. The 88SN2400 includes two 25GbE ports so that a high-availability design can have active and standby ports. The chip comes in a 13mm package and dissipates less than 1.5W (typical).

A typical storage array houses up to 24 SSDs in a 2U chassis. To convert the SSDs from PCIe to Ethernet, a small PCB containing an 88SN2400 attaches to each drive’s U.2 connector. The interposer cards then plug into the chassis backplane, which uses a 98CX84xx (Bobcat 3) switch to connect the 24 SSDs to external ports. The distributed NVMe-oF processing delivers low power as well as performance that scales with the number of SSDs. For customers seeking maximum performance in an NVMe-oF array, Marvell offers an exciting new approach.

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