Virtualization Technology News and Information
Xsigo: 2012 - The Year of the Fabric


What do Virtualization and Cloud executives think about 2012? Find out in this series exclusive.

2012 - The Year of the Fabric

Contributed Article by Jon Toor, VP Marketing, Xsigo

2012 is the year that data center fabrics finally become real. After more than a year of hype, we will see mature, shipping fabrics that address compelling data center issues. Here's a little background on fabrics and seven reasons why they make a difference.  

Fabrics address the challenge of connecting the virtualized data center. Legacy point-to-point switching models simply don't work in a dynamic environment with ever-changing workloads. In the virtualized data center, static network paths lead to performance challenges and I/O limitations that limit efficiency. And it just takes too much time to manage. Every added VM or workload migration potentially requires laborious network configuration, sapping time from IT staffs and discouraging further optimization.

Fabrics represent a shift to data center-optimized solutions and away from individually managed switches. At the highest level, fabric solutions let you manage groups of devices as a whole rather than controlling individual switches. You define the data path end points and let the fabric handle the routing chores. The network itself optimizes performance and resource utilization, thus reducing management complexity.

So what problems does this new approach solve in the data center? Here are seven ways fabrics can help you in 2012.

1.     Relieve the east-west traffic problem

a.     Gartner claims that 80% of data center network traffic now travels from server-to-server. Depending on where it's going, that data may travel through multiple layers of infrastructure, creating latency and I/O congestion at choke points along the way. This is referred to as the "east-west" problem. Fabrics will address this with smarter data paths that can traverse the topology much more directly, adding performance and reducing physical complexity. 

2.     Eliminate the spanning tree issue

a.     The Spanning Tree Protocol dates back almost 30 years. Designed to ensure a loop-free topology, it was not intended to build an efficient virtual data center. In fact, it creates major performance challenges by limiting data paths in ways that create congestion. New solutions employ greater network intelligence to route data in faster, more efficient ways.     

3.     Reduced reliance on VLANs

a.     VLANs, which also date back to the 1980's, segregate network traffic. They also saddle virtualization managers with tedious I/O configuration tasks and present scaling challenges in large data centers. New solutions will enable simpler, more scalable segregation without reliance on VLANs.

4.     Connect your VMs in seconds

a.     VMs are quick to deploy but not always easy to connect to other resources. You need a network identity and a data path, both of which will require coordination across multiple teams. New solutions will let you connect quickly, especially when connecting to other VMs on the same fabric. In that case, traffic can traverse the fabric independent of the general Ethernet production network, thus reducing congestion and eliminating a host of configuration tasks.  

5.     More bandwidth where you really need it: at the server

a.     Traditional networking has skinny pipes down at the server level and progressively fatter pipes as you move up the networking stack. But if 80% of the traffic is server to server, you actually need more bandwidth down low in the infrastructure. In a way, this turns the typical bandwidth pyramid upside down. Putting more bandwidth down at the server level will help you run more VMs per server.

6.     FC/Ethernet convergence

a.     Most Fibre Channel shops still use dedicated FC server connections to each server, despite the availability of effective solutions that converge Ethernet and Fibre Channel to a single cable. It has been well proven that FC and Ethernet can deliver great performance and reliability when combined over a 20 or 40G link. In 2012 there will be multiple options to achieve full convergence and save serious money.  

7.     Open solutions for an efficient path forward

a.    Finally, there will be options to achieve all of these goals while fully leveraging the gear you have. With some of the new fabric solutions, this transition absolutely can be smooth and incremental, not rip and replace.

And that's cause for a happy new year.


About the Author

Jon Toor, VP of Marketing

As Vice President of Marketing, Mr. Toor brings over 20 years of storage experience to Xsigo. Prior to Xsigo, he served at ONStor as Vice President of Marketing. Before ONStor, Mr. Toor was Senior Director of Marketing at Maxtor, leading the marketing department of the company's Network Systems Group, a startup NAS vendor. Prior to that, Mr. Toor served for two years as Vice President of Marketing for Micropolis, a developer of hard disk drives. He also worked at Quantum as Director of Marketing, managing the strategic direction of the company's enterprise storage products, and at Seagate, where he served as an engineering manager. Mr. Toor holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, a B.A. in Economics, and an MBA, all from Stanford University.

Published Friday, December 09, 2011 7:08 AM by David Marshall
Genowefaf - December 10, 2011 4:29 PM

thanks - Virtualization Technology News and Information for Everyone - (Author's Link) - January 4, 2012 7:07 AM

I'd like to personally welcome each and every one of you to the start of 2012! As we begin what will certainly prove to be a fantastic new year, I wanted to make sure to thank all of the loyal member's and readers of Once again, with the help

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