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Fabric architectures key to supporting data centers

By Donna Donnowitz
September 21, 2011
The economic recession that dominated the past few years led to major changes throughout the IT sector. Most dominant among them is the advent of the cloud, which has changed the data center industry. While cloud computing is changing the way many businesses perform IT operations, a recent Al Bawaba report said the cloud has also had a major impact on how data center networks function.

According to the news source, cloud computing is changing the data center network landscape because it depends heavily on virtualization. While most experts agree that virtualization is good for the data center sector, its impact on network infrastructure can be difficult to deal with. At its core, virtualization helps data center operators make the most out of server infrastructure by fully utilizing hardware. However, filling a physical server with multiple virtual machines creates more logical network links than physical ones, the report said.

This can be problematic in the data center because traditional data center networks use spanning tree protocol to create a logical transmission path between servers and out through the network's aggregation layer. However, the report said this procedure does not work well once machines are virtualized because more network traffic is passing between servers, leaving spanning tree in a position where it cannot easily keep up.

To overcome this problem, the news source said more companies are deploying fabric Ethernet architectures. Doing this means replacing legacy Ethernet tools with state-of-the-art technologies that are capable of removing layers from the traditional spanning tree infrastructure and emphasizing a flatter network.

The report said upgrading the network to support virtual machines becomes so important that it is central to the success of any data center using virtualized systems. Overall, managing Ethernet deployment to enable VMs is more important than choosing the right hypervisor or other virtualization technology, according to the news source.

Flattening Ethernet through fabric architectures is becoming important in a variety of sectors. In a recent Register report, industry expert Greg Ferro explained that flattening Ethernet networks has the potential to revolutionize data center network performance. However, it does come with some operational risks inherent to Ethernet infrastructure. Because the problems with flattened networks are also issues with Ethernet systems as a whole, standards bodies are already developing solutions, Ferro told the Register.


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