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Debate raging over data center network formats

By Donna Donnowitz
November 21, 2011
The data center industry is rapidly migrating to the cloud, creating significant debate between vendors over the best way to upgrade infrastructure to support the fast-paced technology. At the recent NetEvents Asia conference, this argument came out in full force, as a panel discussion led to a heated debate over whether data center operators should turn to flattened Ethernet architectures.

According to a ZDNet report, the panel discussion was led by Gartner's Ian Keene, who played the role of a corporate CIO looking to upgrade network infrastructure in a highly orchestrated virtual data center working to operate in the cloud. Industry experts from a variety of vendors then made pitches for the different types of infrastructure that could solve this network upgrade problem.

Industry expert Douglas Gourlay said the network deployment needed to support the cloud must be innovative and ambitious. It also has to free a company to easily move from one vendor to another. Because of this, Gourlay said, companies should avoid getting into flat Ethernet architectures. He said few network managers actually want to deal with the management and installation challenges of a flat architecture, and some vendors only push for the solution to lock companies into their Ethernet hardware.

John McHugh, on the other hand, described flattened architectures as a necessary response to changes in data center traffic patterns.

"Eighty percent of network traffic will be going east-west, not north-south as the network was designed to work," McHugh told audiences, according to ZDNet.

This transition to east-west traffic is making flattened Ethernet architectures essential to data center operations. McHugh explained that removing the network's aggregation layer creates a more flexible and sustainable data center environment that makes it easier for businesses to manage the network's edge.

Making a major data center network upgrade can enable a diverse range of operational improvements. According to a recent TechTarget report, organizations that invest in advanced Ethernet architectures can enable active-active data center configurations. This goal was recently achieved by the University of North Florida, which used automation to upgrade network and facility management and improve operational efficiency.

Steve Lyon, assistant director for network engineering at the university, told the news source the upgrade allowed the IT team to extend Layer 2 of the network to the edge without sacrificing routing and other core capabilities.

Perle’s wide range of 1 to 48 port Perle Console Servers provide data center managers and network administrators with secure remote management of any device with a serial console port. Plus, they are the only truly fault tolerant Console Servers on the market with the advanced security functionality needed to easily perform secure remote data center management and out-of-band management of IT assets from anywhere in the world.


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