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Flattening data centers could be the answer to dealing with virtualization

By Max Burkhalter
January 25, 2011
As data centers virtualize servers, making them mobile, flexible and optimized virtual machines that can maximize a physical server's capacity, they are forced to upgrade their network to handle the increased volume. According to a recent Network World report, data centers can handle the new networking requirements by flattening the data center.

To flatten the data center, companies essentially need to reduce the number of networking components used while improving the overall performance of the devices, the report said. Just moving the data center to the 10G standard is not enough, according to the report, and data centers need to work to reduce the number of switches interfacing with servers and improve the performance of the terminals to handle virtualization.

The increased networking speeds are coupling with growing demand on physical devices to make traditional Spanning Tree protocol inefficient in the data center the report said. As a result, flattening the data center is dependent on applying new protocols, such as TRILL, to handle the volume of content being sent through the network at any time.

TRILL is able to offer significant benefits to flatten the data center, the report said, because it is a Layer 2 protocol that offers a number of routing upgrades. Essentially, TRILL is capable of enabling shortest path multihop routing. This allows the data center to build major Ethernet or fiber-over-Ethernet networks that can handle the increased bandwidth needs while allowing TRILL to route data over the network efficiently to maximize speeds.

The report said unified switching fabric is also driving movement toward flattened data centers. Unified switching fabric is capable of placing storage protocols onto the Ethernet system, but storage-related network traffic cannot handle the various routing techniques used in typical three-tier data center networks. As a result, the report said data centers are flattening to integrate unified switching fabric into their systems.

According to a recent report from Network Computing, cloud computing growth could act as a catalyst to data center upgrades in 2011. As a result, the report anticipates new fiber-over-Ethernet deployments to develop during the year. With the impending increase in fiber-over-Ethernet technology, the report also expects data centers to install more systems based on the TRILL standard. Both the TRILL standard and the IEEE 802.1aq protocol should be officially accepted and enabled before year's end, according to the report.


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