We recently sat down with Kurtis Bowman, President of the Gen-Z Consortium, and Tim Symons, Marketing Workgroup Co-chair, to discuss the importance of Gen-Z technology in enterprise scenarios.
Gen-Z: How does Gen-Z technology benefit enterprises?
Kurtis: Gen-Z has lots of great benefits within enterprise scenarios, including leveraging the transition towards sharing processor-connected resources. Gen-Z fabrics enable DRAM, Persistent Memory, GPUs, and FPGA accelerators to be directly accessible to processors bridging to the fabric and eliminates stranded resources by creating resource pools that can be allocated to servers when the application demands, and reallocated to others when the workload changes. This disaggregation allows IT managers to deploy resources and manage power separately from the servers. For obvious reasons, this represents both CAPex and OPex savings for enterprises.
Once the resources are separated from the compute node they can be upgraded and refreshed at a rate appropriate to each resource type. In today’s world we see accelerators, like GPUs, being introduced on a cadence that is faster than CPUs are changing. Gen-Z allows IT departments to spend money on the devices when they are launched rather than waiting on a server refresh cycle. Today this is happening with accelerators, tomorrow it will be the same for new types of Persistent Memory (PM) or Storage Class Memory (SCM).
Gen-Z: What scenarios best illustrate the impact Gen-Z can have in an enterprise situation?
Tim:Stranded memory is a great example where servers have been provisioned to service the most challenging applications, but other, less demanding applications operating on the servers cause the memory to be underutilized resulting in wasted cost and power. Also, in-memory databases require vast amounts of memory accessible to processors and Gen-Z enables memory sharing, pooling, and scaling to accommodate easy memory provisioning and growth.
Gen-Z: What design elements of the Gen-Z technology are specifically intended to support and encourage adoption?
Tim: There are several! Long reach connectivity defined by the phy interface for rack to rack interconnect is just one.
Kurtis: I’d also call out resource pooling and provisioning. Both ensure an optimal configuration can be available for all applications as workloads change and shift. Also, fabric management utilizes industry standard protocols to ensure broad support from M&O (Management and Orchestration) Tools.
Tim: Security is inherent in the protocol with the protocol level keys and access controls ensuring secure data segregation.
Gen-Z: Why should enterprise IT teams seek to deploy Gen-Z technology?
Kurtis: That one is simple: Gen-Z reduces cost of ownership by optimizing resource utilization, and enables system upgrades to be applied without impacting data or interrupting applications. All enterprises are in need of this type of solution.
Gen-Z: What are some practical applications that should be considered by IT leads?
Tim: Let’s just list them out:
- Gen-Z eliminates costs of stranded resources,
- It has the flexibility of supporting a broad set of application demands,
- It supports future proofing of IT centres by enabling live upgrades,
- It better manages power, cooling, and resource replacement through disaggregation,
- And it shares powerful new resources among all servers by sharing on a Gen-Z fabric -e.g., NIC, GPU.
Gen-Z: What technology advancements or partnerships involving Gen-Z will benefit enterprises?
Kurtis: Gen-Z’s partnership with CXL secures a processor interface for Gen-Z and leverages the CXL memory interface along with added expansion to provide scalability. Our relationship with the OFA ensures that the Gen-Z fabric management is supported by broadly adopted interfaces and can integrate easily with other deployed systems. Along with these, our Consortium members are always innovating to deliver new services based on the opportunities created by Gen-Z fabrics.
Tim: As part of this alliance, the organizations will also collaborate on extensions to DMTF’s Platform Management Components Intercommunication (PMCI) standards, including planned development of a new MCTP Gen-Z Transport Binding Specification. We are also hoping to create and maintain extensions to DMTF’s Redfish® API to support Gen-Z management.
Gen-Z: Are there any Gen-Z-based products currently developed that will directly benefit enterprises?
Kurtis: The Open Specifications developed by Gen-Z are already seeing re-use and adoption across several industries. The SFF-TA-1002 connector is deployed in several memory device connectors and the PECFF is a common PCIe form factor that is enhanced to support high bandwidth interconnect and higher power.
Tim: Cable connectors are also providing scalable bandwidth and are being utilized for ethernet. Some analyzers have been developed and the IP is available for memory controllers, switches, and interfacing with FPGA accelerators.
Gen-Z: Should enterprises join the Gen-Z Consortium? Why?
Kurtis: As Gen-Z matures, there will be new development opportunities to improve and enhance the fabric as new memory types, usage models and system demands are identified. Enterprises have the opportunity to influence the future of Gen-Z and the industry.