Computer networking vendors have been increasing the speed and port density of their Ethernet switches while reducing power draw and price per port. But while Ethernet switching hardware marches on linearly, thanks to 10, 40 and 100GbE, networking software is taking a different historical path as the pace of compute and network technology evolution has diverged, with networking lagging. Highly virtualized server deployment has broken traditional networking approaches on multiple levels, for example. In response, the industry is now developing a “virtualized infrastructure” or “stack” to add network flexibility. To close the technology gap, Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is promoted as the new “organizing principle” to deliver network software and service value. While it will be, likely, years before SDN’s organizing principles take hold, I propose that these two industry activities are inexplicably linked and phased; here’s why…
The Lippis Report has conducted three open industry test of 10 and 40GbE data center fabric switches at Ixia’s iSimCity. Michael Githens of Ixia interviews Nick Lippis of the Lippis Report to look back on what we have learned after testing eleven products from nine vendors including Alcatel-Lucent, Arista Networks, Brocade, Dell/Force10, Extreme Networks, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, Juniper Networks and Mellanox/Voltaire. We then look forward as to what the industry will be serving up in 2012 for data center fabrics.
Download “Fall 2011 Open Industry Network Performance And Power Test Report” here.
Networking is entering a new phase or era. During the 1990s, new networking markets opened up, creating multi-billion dollar opportunities for the vendor community and corporate cost savings for IT business leaders. First, it was shared LANs and routing, then switched LANs, then Frame Relay to speed up WANs, then SNA over IP, then remote access via dial-up and VPN, then MPLS, then IP telephony, then Wireless LANs etc… and now, it’s video and cloud networking. You get the picture. But what we didn’t realize as we build these networks is that they are silos with disparate management systems and unique access methods resulting in operational cost overlap and, most importantly, user frustration as they transition application use from desktop, to mobile end point, to remote endpoint. In short, we built boundaries around applications in the form of networks and it is the dismantling of these borders that vendors are now starting to deliver and differentiate upon. It’s not just Cisco that communicates borderless networks, but HP Networking, Juniper, Brocade, Extreme, Avaya, Force10 and others too. Why is the industry entering a new age of borderless networking and what’s in it for IT business leaders, is explained in this Lippis Report Research Note. Read the rest of this entry »
It hasn’t been since the mid 1990s that the networking industry was focused on multi-protocol integration or convergence. But the industry is gearing up for a major innovation and competitive cycle fueled by the multi-billion dollar addressable market for data center network fabrics. Over the last eighteen months, every major Ethernet infrastructure provider has been talking about two and three tier network fabrics for high-end data centers.
Companies such as Cisco, Arista Networks, HP/3Com, Force10, Voltaire, Extreme, Brocade, Juniper et al have announced network fabrics for data centers with five thousand and more servers with and without storage enablement. Juniper talks of a one-tier fabric through their Project Stratus work with IBM to be available some time in the future. Brocade recently introduced its Brocade One, which is a converged data center fabric. Extreme Networks launched its DirectAttachTM that eliminates virtual plus blade switch layers. HP has FlexFabric, a virtualized fabric for the data center. Cisco launched its FabricPath Switching System or FSS for the Nexus 7000 that enables massive scale of a two-tier fabric.
In this Lippis Report Research Note, we review the architectural attributes of two tier network fabrics.
Networking has become “rigid”. Yes I know it’s almost absurd to attribute inflexibility or rigidity to networking. Look what TCP/IP has done for us. There are nearly 2 billion people connected to the internet and according to the Internet World Stats internet user growth rate increased by 380% between 2000-2009. With 2 billion people and growing online, accessing a plethora of applications via a wide range of end-points there is no doubt that the internet and TCP/IP has been a much bigger success than anyone would have imagined back in the early ’90s. But there’s always a give and take between computing and networking where one drives and changes the other. Right now we are in a compute innovation cycle that’s driving a fundamental change in networking which screams out the need for more flexibility.
In Lippis Report 151: A Two or Three Tier High-End Data Center Ethernet Fabric Architecture? we detailed the new two tier data center Ethernet fabric that is becoming conventional wisdom amongst business leaders of high end data centers and cloud computing service providers. The networking industry is headed for a major innovation and competitive cycle fueled by a multi-billion dollar addressable market for data center network fabrics. Over the last eighteen months, every major Ethernet infrastructure provider has announced or taken a position on two tier network fabrics for high-end data centers. Companies such as Cisco, Arista Networks, Force10, Voltaire, HP/3Com, Juniper, Extreme, Brocade, BLADE Network Technology, et al have announced network fabrics for data centers with two thousand and more servers that either support storage enablement or not. In this Lippis Report Research Note, we review why it is Ethernet that will be the network fabric of high performance computing or HPC and cloud computing deployments.
In Lippis Report 148 we reviewed the major drivers and trends that are propelling the high-end data center Ethernet switch market to well over a $1B annual run rate. In this Lippis Report Research Note, we review the major suppliers of these switches. We review Cisco, Arista Networks Force10 Networks, BLADE Network Technologies, HP/3Com/H3C, Voltaire, Avaya, Brocade, and Juniper and identify their unique positions and offerings to participants in the burgeoning market. Our focus is the high-end, high density 10GbE switches that are enabling virtualized cloud computing data centers thanks to Terabits per second of back plane switching capacity, billions of packets per second of layer 2/3 forwarding, hundreds of 10GbE port connectivity per chassis, a new two-tier architecture, microsecond level latency, low power consumption, non-stop operation and software hooks that eliminate network barriers to large scale server virtualization. The engineering in these switches should be celebrated, as they represent the state-of-the-art in computer and network design. In short, they represent the fundamental building block of a new generation of IT delivery based upon cloud computing and virtualization. This Research Note is a must read for any IT executive designing a data center.
After finishing this Research Note, it became evident that this market needs a set of industry neural 10GbE switch test to independently verify vendor claims. We hope to make such a contribution this Fall. Read the rest of this entry »