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Fabric architectures can be cost-effectively deployed

By Donna Donnowitz
October 12, 2011
The data center network is changing. The traditional three-layer system that focuses on traffic between servers and end users is flattening into a fabric solution focusing on the second layer and supporting more traffic between servers.

According to a recent CFO World report, making a dynamic change to the data center to support fabric architectures can be accomplished cost-effectively if businesses properly understand their needs and evaluate the new switching, network virtualization and storage convergence technologies needed to make the fabric network happen.

The news source explained that the first step to making a cost-effective transition to fabric architectures is understanding the full scope of what technologies are needed to support the move. At its core, a flat network emphasises layer two of the data center network, and establishes a non-oversubscribed, non-blocking switching setup to essentially flatten the data center network. This creates a mesh connectivity system instead of the more traditional spanning tree protocol, making the network more responsive, adaptable and efficient. As a result, fabric networks typically reduce operational expenses once installed, the report explained.

Understanding these core attributes of the fabric network opens up more possibilities for businesses because they can seek out the most cost-effective technologies to meet their specific needs within the broad fabric architecture, the report said. The key to accomplishing this is to establish clear quality standards and service expectations for the network, and invest intelligently in equipment that will meet those requirements without overwhelming the budget.

Once these issues have been addressed, the report said businesses need to figure out what speeds they require at the port level. As server data input and output rates rise and more traffic passes through the network, it is critical to make sure network ports are able to support a business' bandwidth and performance needs.

Establishing active-active data paths is also key because it supports more efficient networking, the report said. Furthermore, simplified and more effective management systems need to be put into place to support network responsiveness and maintenance.

A variety of technologies and protocols can be used to establish a fabric architecture within the data center. In a recent Register report, industry expert Greg Ferro explained that establishing an efficient fabric architecture is dependent on understanding that a storage fabric will often behave similarly to an SCSI cable or channel.


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