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Spanning tree could be meeting its end

By Max Burkhalter
March 5, 2012
Spanning tree protocol, the network traffic management that dominates most LAN and data center environments, is facing its demise. According to a recent study from InformationWeek Reports, spanning tree is built within a tiered network infrastructure that creates a clear path for data transit. This worked well in the past, but current bandwidth demands are reaching a level where spanning tree cannot climb.

The report explained that the careful, strategic distribution of network resources within spanning tree-based tiered systems begins to face serious problems when virtualization is thrown into the data center equation. The convergence of storage and data networks is also exposing the limitations of spanning tree and pushing the technology towards a point where it could become obsolete.

In the place of spanning tree protocol and tiered networking, more data center operators are turning to flattened Ethernet architectures. This simultaneously makes the network more flexible, less complex and capable of handling more bandwidth. To achieve this end, a few new standards are emerging.

The first is the transparent interconnection of lots of links, which completely revises how data flows through the network and reaches servers, storage systems and end users. Shortest path bridging is also becoming more prominent in this area, as the solution works to route data in the most efficient way possible, mitigating any potential latency issues and avoiding dropped data packets by getting content out of the network and to their destinations through the shortest path available, according to the news source.

There are also a variety of proprietary solutions emerging to flatten the network, allowing organizations that cannot use TRILL or shortest path bridging for any reason to reduce network complexity and improve efficiency, the report said.

While TRILL and shortest path bridging both offer considerable potential, InformationWeek Reports explained that they also present challenges that organizations need to overcome to find success with the new protocols. For example, TRILL completely changes the LAN landscape, requiring significant hardware investments to support the innovative solution.

While hardware spending and similar issues can detract somewhat from enthusiasm about a new technology, networking needs are rapidly rising to a point where organizations need to make major upgrades. The advance of virtualization and cloud computing has led to a business revolution in which the network has become more important than ever before. Instead of simply supporting business operations, network architectures have become a key enabler, allowing workers to access the cloud and technologies that help drive new revenue opportunities.

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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