IBM System Networking Delivers Comprehensive 10GBase-T Solution for Cost-Effective Data Center Networking
Our clients know that the cost of owning and operating networking infrastructure is a key factor contributing to the overall ROI of IT. For example, when clients upgrade their data center environments, they vastly prefer to avoid the expense of ripping out and replacing existing cabling infrastructures. In the cabling world, the majority of today’s data center networks use 1000Base-T (Gigabit Ethernet) running on Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a twisted pair structured cabling.
Now, increasing demand for user, device-generated and machine-to-machine bandwidth is driving a shift to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Until now, however, the migration from 1GbE to 10GbE and beyond has been hampered because existing 10G links are based on optical transceivers or SFP+ Direct Attach copper, neither of which is compatible with Gigabit Ethernet. Now, technology advances have reduced the price and power consumption of 10GBase-T to enable a seamless migration from Gigabit to 10GbE Ethernet using existing cabling infrastructures. Both 1000Base-T and 10GBase-T use RJ45 connectors and a structured cabling model with twisted-pair wiring, 100-meter maximum spans, and standards-based auto-negotiation for backward compatibility.
That’s why we’re getting such a positive response to our new IBM RackSwitch G8264T, a new top-of-rack switch from IBM System Networking that is part of a comprehensive 10GBase-T solution offering from IBM, which includes servers, storage and networking, providing better virtualization, better management, and smarter connectivity options for next-generation data centers.
Designed with top performance in mind, the IBM RackSwitch G8264T is ideal for today’s big data, cloud and optimized workloads leveraging cost-effective 10GBase-T connectivity. The IBM RackSwitch G8264T incorporates 48 10GBase-T connections plus four 40Gb QSFP+ connections in a 1U form factor for flexible and low-cost connectivity at distances up to 100m for 10G environments. The IBM RackSwitch G8264T delivers line-rate, high-bandwidth switching, filtering, and traffic queuing without delaying data. Large data-center grade buffers keep traffic moving. Redundant power and fans along with numerous high-availability features equip the IBM RackSwitch G8264 and G8264T for business-sensitive traffic.
The IBM RackSwitch’s 10 Gigabit interfaces and 40 Gigabit Ethernet for upstream connectivity and future expansion are the ideal complement to new IBM System x M4 servers, which utilize Intel’s “Romley” Xeon E5 processors that were designed with 10G Ethernet as the preferred interconnect for today’s high-performance computing workloads.
While there’s a whole new world of opportunity for Ethernet-everywhere data center network infrastructures with next-generation capabilities, clients never prefer to rip out and replace their existing and significant investments in connectors and wiring. Our new IBM RackSwitch G8264T is the “poster child” for next-generation networking that leverages existing client investments.
Do you see the maturity of 10GBase-T as an important catalyst for the migration from Gigabit Ethernet to 10 Gigabit in the data center network?
IBM’s “Blue Pods”
With standardized components available for virtually every element of IT infrastructure from server to storage and network to rack, it’s perhaps no surprise that the standardized data center or “Pod” is becoming increasingly popular. For example, IBM’s Portable Modular Data Center is a data center in 20- or 40-foot shipping container that can be located anywhere that power and chilled water can be delivered. Other “Blue Pods” include the Enterprise Modular Data Center, a standardized raised-floor data center that can be built out in modules of 5,000 to 20,000 square feet, and the Modular High-Density Zone, which can convert an existing raised-floor space into an area that can deliver more computing capacity and power density.
As organizations struggle to handle growth in existing data centers, most organizations need to install and operate high-density computing to keep up with IT demands. However, the majority of today’s data centers are not designed to support high-density computing. So, these modular data centers offer a quick-to-deploy high-density solution with exceptional energy efficiency. And these modular approaches are ideal for organizations that want affordable capacity on demand. A Portable Modular Data Center can be designed, built and drop-shipped in as little as a few weeks to any location in the world, and does not require onerous capital outlays.
An IBM Portable Modular Data Center can cost up to 30 percent less to design and build compared to custom raised floor solutions, and can have up to a 50 percent smaller footprint. These Blue Pods are open, using industry-standard 19-inch racks and can house 1,428 blade servers or 1,178 IBM iDataPlex servers per container. This high-density compute power requires equivalent networking capacity. And this is where IBM System Networking is an ideal complement. IBM System Networking RackSwitch products consume power equivalent to standard light bulbs and are designed with server-friendly airflow that matches the hot-aisle/cold-aisle designs of the modular data center. IBM BladeCenter switches consume even less power and are tightly integrated with the BladeCenter architecture. Our VMready switch-resident software provides the networking capability to equip the Pod for the challenges of virtualization.
As CIOs remake IT infrastructures into more agile and automated environments that can respond to complexity with operational flexibility, Blue Pods support change while helping to mitigate associated risks. They help to address the continuing pressure to do more, faster and better – with less. In many cases, Pods enable organizations to accelerate their preparations for increasing complexity without requiring a significant expansion of existing IT operations. And Pods address the imperative to do more, faster and better—with less. Pods enable the data center to perform as the engine of business growth. And that’s what smarter computing is all about.
Take an online tour of an IBM Portable Modular Data Center.
Yes, The Network Fabric in IBM PureSystems Is Interoperable With Existing Network Infrastructures
Since the recent introduction of IBM PureSystems
with network components developed by System Networking, clients are expressing great interest in the advantages of Expert Integrated Systems. One of their first questions is invariably: “Will IBM networks work with my existing data center and core network infrastructures?”
The answer is a resounding YES. When deploying an IBM PureFlex or PureApplication System, IBM’s standards-based approach to system networking ensures interoperability with existing network infrastructures across the edge, aggregation layer and core. Data centers with equipment from Cisco, Juniper and other network providers can benefit immediately – without any fear that IBM is somehow endeavoring to foist a “rip and replace” Trojan Horse strategy on our valued client.
With that said, here are four clear-cut reasons why IBM System Networking
delivers clear advantages:
- IBM’s Standards-Based Approach – Our mature and battle-tested IBM Networking OS is developed based on a standards-compliant philosophy driven by IBM’s leadership role in key international standards bodies, such as the IEEE, IETF and Open Networking Foundation.
- Certified Cisco Interoperability – Our clients in the world’s largest enterprise, financial services and cloud operators, know that network topologies implemented using our gear will work flawlessly with Cisco infrastructures. IBM System Networking products have been certified by The Tolly Group to deliver interoperability with Cisco Catalyst and Nexus switches. IBM and Juniper Networks recently collaborated to test the new IBM PureFlex System with Juniper products to build and run a cloud-based data center.
- Administrator-Friendly Operation – A common IBM Networking OS runs on IBM Ethernet products across our IBM PureSystems, BladeCenter, and RackSwitch lines. IBM system and network management tools such as Tivoli work with IBM Networking Element Manager. And, a Cisco-like command line interface is familiar to any Cisco-trained administrator.
- Proven Worldwide – With more than 14 million Ethernet switch ports connecting servers, storage and core networks, IBM System Networking has emerged as one of the industry’s foremost, innovative and focused data center networking providers. We estimate that nearly two million IBM switch ports are working with Cisco aggregation and core networks today in the world’s largest and most demanding network environments. Beyond the already significant performance, low latency and energy efficiency advantages delivered by IBM System Networking solutions, our clients know they can have a multi-vendor approach to data center networking, if that is what best suits their need.
Bottom line, clients will implement IBM PureSystems to harness the flexibility of a general-purpose system, the elasticity of cloud and the simplicity of an appliance tuned to the workload. However, as they move to fundamentally change the experience and economics of IT, they do not want to rip and replace their existing investment in networking or implement a proprietary fabric architecture that only works with a single vendor’s components.
Those are simply the realities of data center networking today. And, that’s why IBM has invested in ensuring that Expert Integrated Systems implemented with IBM networking are purpose built for the needs of the modern data center –interoperable, fast, intelligent, virtual and tuned to the task.
In a coming post, I’ll drill down into just how to implement an IBM PureSystems network to achieve the greatest performance and latency advantages.
IBM delivers smarter virtual networks with new OpenFlow controller
Industry pundits are calling software defined networking the most exciting and disruptive enterprise networking technology in decades. With the announcement of the new IBM System Networking Programmable Network Controller, IBM now provides a complete OpenFlow solution (the new controller plus IBM switch).
Just as IBM was first to market with a 10/40GbE OpenFlow-enabled switch, IBM is now leading the market with a complete SDN OpenFlow solution for the agile data center. By aggressively adopting, and contributing to, this new design paradigm, IBM is again demonstrating its commitment to innovation in order to meet and exceed customers’ needs for increased IT and business efficiency, competitiveness and creativity.
As one of the few Tier 1 vendors with any kind of SDN solution, we’re very excited to bring this complete solution to companies and organizations worldwide. And, to demonstrate IBM’s commitment to IT and business innovation.
IBM’s new software defined networking (SDN) controller is an addition to our enterprise networking portfolio. It provides intelligent software using the OpenFlow standard for the IBM RackSwitch G8264 and other OpenFlow-enabled switches. Using OpenFlow, our clients can create virtual networks with the scalability and flexibility required to respond to changes in cloud and mobile services environments.
Customers tell us that IBM’s commitment to interoperability and standards enables them to significantly reduce cost and time-to-value by increasing their networking intelligence. Now that SDN and OpenFlow are not just for research institutions anymore; financial services, software companies, cloud providers and web enterprises are increasingly adopting these new technologies to increase performance and user control.
Listening to what customers need, we’ve designed our new controller to dramatically simplify what is a very complex and expensive management task today. It also allows enterprise data centers to:
- Squeeze out costs from network administration.
- Mitigate business risk with flexible controls and management of network flows based on business policy.
- Deploy a “pay as you grow” scalable fabric that can be cost-effectively implemented with immediate benefits, accelerating time-to-market.
- Use all resources efficiently.
The controller’s technical advantages include:
- An OpenFlow-based network fabric with centralized control of network flows and virtual machine mobility, simplifying management.
- Increase in operational efficiency by automating network changes rather than requiring an admin to make CLI changes.
- Ability to transform traditional networking into an open, flexible model, dramatically increasing business agility and resource productivity while reducing costs.
- A pay-as-you-grow option allowing new applications or growth to leverage the advantages of IBM’s Programmable Network Controller
- Ideal solution for multi-tenant environments and those where business continuity is critical.
- A resilient network for self-healing after an outage.
SDN and virtual networks are opening a new world of possibilities - what new or improved capabilities and services do you see SDN and OpenFlow providing?
IBM Delivers Standards-Based Virtualization Awareness and Automation for Large-Scale, Highly Virtualized Data Centers
With the vast majority of IT organizations now implementing virtualization, clients are seeking to dramatically reduce cost and complexity in highly virtualized data centers. In today’s data center environments, server virtualization is often managed separately from physical infrastructure, requiring the collaboration of server, network, storage, and security administrators. Data center managers are seeking a consistent networking environment across virtual and physical environments, so that virtual and physical servers can use the same configurations, policies and management tools. Network policies should migrate automatically along with mobile virtual machines to ensure that security, performance and access remains intact as virtual machines move from server to server.
To address the need for massively scalable, highly virtualized data centers, key standards have emerged for network virtualization automation. IBM System Networking
has developed and delivered the new IBM Distributed Virtual Switch (DVS) 5000V
™ alongside switch-resident IBM VMready®
, so clients can implement standards-based network virtualization in today’s I/O-intensive virtual switch environments. Using IBM’s innovative VMready virtualization-aware networking on IBM RackSwitch™
, as well as embedded Ethernet switches for IBM BladeCenter®
and IBM FlexSystems®
, along with IBM’s DVS 5000V as the virtual switch in VMware environments, clients can radically simplify and automate virtualization management. VMready works with all the major hypervisors and supports the IEEE 802.1Qbg standard for automating Virtual Machine mobility. VMware clients can further optimize and automate virtualization management with more advanced capabilities using the new IBM virtual switch.
The IBM System Networking Distributed Virtual Switch 5000V is an advanced, feature-rich distributed virtual switch developed by IBM in cooperation with VMware with policy-based virtual machine (VM) connectivity. The IBM Distributed Virtual Switch (DVS) 5000V enables network administrators familiar with IBM System Networking switches to manage the IBM DVS 5000V just like IBM physical switches using advanced networking, troubleshooting and management features so the virtual switch is no longer hidden and difficult to manage.
Support for Edge Virtual Bridging (EVB) based on the IEEE 802.1Qbg standard enables scalable, flexible management of networking configuration and policy requirements per VM and eliminates many of the networking challenges introduced with server virtualization. The IBM DVS 5000V works with VMware vSphere 5.0 and beyond and interoperates with any 802.1Qbg-compliant physical switch to enable switching of local VM traffic in the hypervisor or in the upstream physical switch. No fork lift of physical edge switches is required -- a simple firmware upgrade enables IEEE 802.1Qbg support on IBM physical switches. Virtual Machine (VM) traffic is switched at the device -- virtual or physical -- nearest to the VM in the traditional vSwitch EVB mode or in the transparent or reflective relay VEPA mode. IBM System Networking DVS 5000V is highly recommended for VM switching in VMware vSphere enterprise data center solutions – it is designed from the ground up to automate and scale any highly virtualized enterprise workload.
The standards-based network virtualization awareness, automation and “Virtual Vision” provided by IBM’s DVS 5000V and VMready demonstrate the healthy ecosystem in virtualization-aware networking and ensures that clients have freedom of choice to implement a multi-vendor network infrastructure that is equipped, enabled and scalable for massive virtualization.
Our standards-based approach enables clients to implement an integrated network across physical and virtual networks so the entire system-level network is aware of Virtual Machines and can automate their live mobility as workload requirements change. It’s truly a comprehensive solution that many clients are seeing as the way forward as they continue to embrace and extend virtualization across servers and workloads.
How do you see data center networks evolving to keep pace with the demands of massive virtualization?
OpenFlow – Next-Generation Networking for a Smarter Planet
We are seeing dramatic shifts as our planet becomes smarter. Every aspect of life is benefiting from the instrumentation, interconnection and the infusion of intelligence into the systems of the world. Networking is no exception, and the emerging OpenFlow specification promises a greater level of intelligence in Ethernet networks through a new approach called Software-Defined Networking (SDN).
OpenFlow is a network protocol that has been developed over the past six years at Stanford University. It was initially created for researchers and universities as a tool to allow experimentation with new protocols and is now showing great promise for today’s highly virtualized enterprise and cloud computing networks.
IBM is an industry leader in network virtualization technology and cloud computing through IBM System Networking's VMready product and is actively participating in the standardization of virtualization in networks through our leadership contribution to the IEEE 802.1Qbg standard. IBM is actively involved in OpenFlow technology.
OpenFlow is being promoted by the Open Networking Foundation formed by six companies that own and operate some of the largest networks in the world — Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo! — as well as 17 member companies, including IBM and other major equipment vendors, networking and virtualization software suppliers and chip technology providers. OpenFlow is a disruptive technology that enables customers to choose their networking hardware and software separately in order to design best-of-breed data center solutions.
There are many applications for OpenFlow in modern networks. For example:
- A network administrator could create on-demand “express lanes” for voice and data traffic that are time-sensitive.
- Software could also be used to combine several fiber optic links into a larger virtual pipe for temporarily handing a particularly heavy flow of traffic, and then have the channels automatically separate again when the data rush is over.
- Service providers could use OpenFlow to help build a Smarter Planet by offering remote services such as home security or energy management.
- In cloud computing environments, OpenFlow improves scalability and enables resources to be shared efficiently among different services in response to the number of users.
OpenFlow revolutionizes the monolithic model of conventional network devices by managing the flow tables on network switches, routers and access points independently of the device’s software. It removes much of the network decision making, often called the “control plane” from network devices into an external controller that can be implemented using standard server technology.
At Interop Las Vegas, May 8-12, 2011, IBM System Networking and NEC will be showing, for the first time publically, a proof-of-concept demo of an OpenFlow-enabled IBM BNT RackSwitch G8264 working in concert with an NEC OpenFlow controller. IBM will also participate in the InteropNet OpenFlow Lab, which will educate attendees on the principles, functions and features of OpenFlow. The lab will demonstrate OpenFlow in different scenarios, including loop free networking, dynamic load balancing across multiple links and quality of service for VoIP.
We are proud to be one of the inaugural members of the Open Networking Foundation, which again demonstrates IBM’s long-standing commitment to making a difference for customers with open industry standards, which are essential for the Smarter Computing that powers a Smarter Planet.
What Makes A Good Network Fabric?
As I wrote in my earlier blog post, the data center network is going through a major transformation to support server virtualization and cloud computing, convergence of data storage, application-to-application traffic and new high-performance applications. To address these needs, the data center network fabric, the system network architecture that interconnects server devices and storage devices in a data center environment, has become a critical lynchpin of data center architecture. I am frequently asked the question, “What makes a good network fabric?” The term “fabric” has nearly as many definitions and permutations as “cloud,” so I would like to suggest the top 10 attributes that a data center network fabric should possess.
- Open and Interoperable – Modern data center networking is best accomplished when it is standards-based, when multiple vendors equipment can co-exist and interoperate, and clients can choose between multiple vendors’ wares without paying a pricing penalty or needing to rip-and-replace to meet growth needs and implement next-generation approaches. Standards-based Ethernet is a fabric essential.
- High Speed – To meet the performance needs of big data, cloud computing and workload-optimized systems, data centers are increasingly implementing 10 Gigabit Ethernet on the server and in the access and aggregation layers, which is driving interest in 40 Gigabit Ethernet with 100 Gigabit Ethernet on the horizon.
- Low Latency - Applications such as high-frequency trading require the lowest possible latency. The race to zero latency is enabled by ultra-low-latency switches that deterministic with the same connection speeds across every port combination.
- Loss-less – To meet the needs of machine-to-machine applications and converged data and storage networking, Ethernet networks must be loss-less. Network equipment supports the Data Center Bridging (DCB) standards to ensure loss-less operation.
- Flat – Clos and fat tree network designs are becoming increasingly prevalent for the flow-based, non-blocking, shortest path network fabrics required in highly virtualized and cloud data centers and for converged data and storage traffic. With standards such as Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) and Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) on the horizon and other alternatives for flat networks requiring proprietary implementations, network architects favor existing approaches to meshed networking such as Virtual Link Aggregation (vLAG) to maximize network efficiency, reduce congestion and address Spanning Tree limitations by creating active/active Layer 2 network paths for load balancing and redundancy.
- Virtualization Aware – To ensure that network security, performance and access policies move dynamically when live virtual machines migrate from server to server anywhere in the virtualized data center or private cloud, the Edge Virtual Bridging (EVB) 802.1Qbg standard specifies the interaction between virtual switching environments in a hypervisor and the first layer of the physical switching infrastructure. The EVB 802.1Qbg standard addresses the conventional vSwitch’s lack of network management, monitoring and security.
- Scalable – Linearly scalable is a requisite of network fabric design, which can be achieved by non-blocking, non-oversubscribed topologies implemented using top-of-rack switches.
- User Control – The emerging OpenFlow specification enables network infrastructure providers to deliver open virtual networking systems that that are easy for users to control, optimize performance dynamically and minimize complexity. OpenFlow-based networks enable the network administrator to easily configure and manage virtual networks that control traffic on a per-flow basis. The administrator can easily program an OpenFlow controller to create or delete multiple independent virtual networks and related policies that span the system network without having to deal with the complexities of the underlying physical network and protocol details.
- Unified Management – Network devices that make up the fabric should be managed, configured and provisioned as if they were a single logical device, including the ability to can track virtual machines by switch or IP address, and pre-provision network characteristics for VMs.
- Low Lifecycle Costs – And finally, per-switch costs should be affordable so networks can scale on an incremental basis, the need for expensive chassis switches should be minimized, and low power requirements and cooling efficiencies should enable low energy costs particularly for massive networks fabrics that interconnect thousands of server and storage systems.
We have designed IBM System Networking’s Unified Fabric Architecture, our fast, smart, interoperable and proven data center Ethernet network fabric, to deliver across all 10 of these attributes. Unified Fabric Architecture along with the ability to replicate pre-provisioned racks and integrated systems, enables clients that have already invested billions of dollars in their data centers to take advantage of the best innovations in the industry and achieve the lowest possible cost of ownership for their IT infrastructure.
IBM System Networking on Track
As we pass the one-year anniversary of IBM’s acquisition of BLADE Network Technologies, I am pleased to report that IBM System Networking is on track in our focus to deliver “Smarter Networking for Smarter Data Centers.” We have exceeded our business objectives across the past four quarters, delivered an enhanced and expanded portfolio of data center networking solutions, and are succeeding in our goal to bring intelligence and speed to the essential access, distribution and aggregation layers where server and storage systems are connected to the data center network.
Gartner’s recent report: “Competitive Landscape: Data Center Ethernet Switches, Worldwide, 2011 Update” validates our growing market impact. Gartner places IBM System Networking as the number-two vendor in the data center networking market that has grown to $6.1 billion and 22.5 million ports.
Gartner reports that users now recognize the need for a "significantly new type of Ethernet switch for their data centers. As more and more data centers are affected by trends like consolidation, virtualization and automation, this has given rise to a set of new problems that network managers have to address.” As a result, Gartner asserts that data center networking must address:
• Growing east-west network traffic
• Growing need for 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches at every layer of the data center network
• Redundant design at various levels of the network
• Flat topologies to bring down the number of hops and reduce network latency
• Effectively providing interconnects and network services like security authentication, load balancing/failover, virtual LAN (VLAN) administration and traffic shaping to virtual machines.
• Overcoming the topological, failover and scalability limits imposed by spanning tree protocol (STP)
• Low power consumption with front to rear airflow design.
IBM System Networking delivers across all these requirements, which is why we are playing a leadership role in the data center networking market. Clients who deploy Smarter Computing using IBM System Networking solutions realize improved economics, better network performance, lower latency, less complexity, greater energy efficiency and streamlined management. These advantages become paramount as clients deploy a new class of switches specifically designed for the data center in ever-growing numbers.
New IBM System Networking Innovations Address CIOs’ Pain Points
As I meet with CIOs around the world, the key issues they are working to address are invariably similar. Across the board, they are seeking to implement data center solutions that enable scalability, density, simplicity of management and provisioning, IT efficiency and virtualization, enhanced security, big data and analytics and low lifecycle costs. IBM System Networking is introducing a range of innovative new products that address these requirements. With these new offerings, CIOs can:
Scale SAN fabrics for private clouds. IBM System Networking is delivering new, high-performance 16Gbps Fibre Channel storage area networking (SAN) backbone, switch and management solutions designed to help enterprise clients migrate smoothly to private cloud architectures through faster data transfers, fewer links needed to accomplish the same task and fewer devices managed overall, with energy consumption seven times more efficient than competitive solutions.
Increase density and flatten networks. The new IBM Rackswitch G8316 is IBM System Networking’s new 40 Gigabit Ethernet aggregation switch with 16x 40G ports to aggregate multiple racks of servers or 64x 10G ports using breakout cables and a powerful control plane for higher performance. The IBM RackSwitch G8316 supports fat-tree networks for higher bandwidth and lower latency, provides an affordable alternative to expensive core switches, delivers predictable low latency through its single-chip design, and enables an end-to-end standards-based integrated solution using IBM switches and servers for easy management and provisioning.
Simplify management and provisioning. A unified management software solution for mixed SAN and FCoE environments, IBM Network Advisor provides greater insight for end-to-end network management to help reduce costs and simplify operations. IBM Networking Element Manager (formerly BLADEHarmony Manager) now includes better integration with Tivoli, topology discovery and support for additional managed devices.
Increase IT efficiency and virtualization. The IBM Networking Operating System (formerly BLADEOS) is a best-in-class data center network operating system for IBM RackSwitch and BladeCenter switches that incorporates the innovative VMready capability with support for the IEEE’s Edge Virtual Bridging (EVB) 802.1Qbg standard to bring scalable virtualization awareness to the data center network. With VMready, clients can confidently deploy and manage production application workloads in private clouds consisting of hundreds of physical servers and thousands of virtual machines.
Enhance security. IBM iFlow Director is a purpose-built flow distribution system that enables high-performance and low-cost BladeCenter-based appliance solutions. IBM iFlow Director provides flow-based load balancing for security appliances, such as deep packet inspection devices, firewalls and IDS/IPS systems, anti-virus and anti-spyware appliances and lawful intercept devices as well as wireless Internet mobile gateway appliances.
Power big data and analytics. IBM System Networking’s top-of-rack, blade and SAN smarter networking solutions deliver the massive amounts of bandwidth required for today’s big data systems.
Reduce lifecycle costs by increasing network control and flexibility. Using the OpenFlow-based IBM RackSwitch G8264 10/40 Gigabit Ethernet switch, user-controlled virtual networks are easy to create, optimize performance dynamically and minimize complexity. OpenFlow is a network protocol that has been developed over the past six years at Stanford University. The new OpenFlow solution enables the network administrator to easily configure and manage virtual networks that control traffic on a per-flow basis.
CIOs can count on IBM for smarter data center solutions that address their most pressing pain points. You can learn more about our exciting new IBM System Networking innovations by visiting ibm.com/networking.
Networks Go Flat So Data Can Go Faster
Today’s application requirements place new demands on the data center network fabric to deliver non-stop, ultra-low latency traffic flows. This traffic is increasingly “east-west” in nature to enable server-to-server communications versus the “north-south” traffic that characterizes conventional client/server and Web-based application environments. In fact, today, as much as 80 to 85 per cent of the traffic in cloud and virtualized server infrastructures – moves from server to server.
Deployment of the network fabric to serve these “east-west” requirements ideally begins at the edge of the network, close to servers, applications, users and innovation. So, today’s evolving data center architectures start with building out the fabric at the edge, connecting multiple blade servers, racks or systems, and eventually connecting multiple data centers. This is all about allowing clients to take advantage of fabric technology without expecting them to undertake an expensive and resource intensive forklift upgrade. That’s why starting at the edge makes a lot of sense.
For the intensive machine-to-machine communications required for server virtualization, cloud computing and high performance computing applications such as high-frequency trading, latency should be as close as you can possibly get to zero. There is the basic latency associated with the speed of light and the transmission medium, so as close as you can possibly get to zero defines the ideal. People in the industry have used the term the race to zero latency as a way of describing this insatiable quest for driving latency out of the system.
Clients are deploying IT infrastructure on an unprecedented scale. For example, data centers that were deploying five to six thousand servers on an annualized basis are now are routinely looking at deploying an order of magnitude more server infrastructure. So the scale at which these clients are deploying server infrastructure and storage capacity is huge. And if the network fabric that is connecting these servers and storage devices does not scale along with servers and storage, then you’ve got a problem.
While on one hand, clients are staring down the barrel of deploying an order of magnitude more servers and storage infrastructure than they ever have before, on the other hand they’re also concerned about ineffectiveness as it relates to utilization of their IT infrastructure. A big focus for enterprises is to increase the utilization of their IT infrastructure. The airline industry calls this yield management. The hospitality industry calls this occupancy rates. In the context of the data center, this is all about maximizing the utilization of IT infrastructure.
We in IBM System Networking agree with The Register’s Timothy Prickett-Morgan who in an insightful article “No More Tiers for Flat Networks,” writes, “For companies that need network traffic to move more efficiently at higher bandwidth and with lower latencies, then a leaf-spine network that has a flatter architecture, or perhaps a fat tree network inspired by supercomputers or a Clos network inspired by telecommunications, might be just the ticket.”
The definition of an ideal fabric is one that does not require clients to jump through hoops, change out servers or add unnecessary complexity. A good fabric should be one that can provide connectivity for the client’s existing infrastructure. That’s why IBM is a big proponent of standards, because we fundamentally believe that standards can bring not only the most innovative solutions to marketplace, but also deliver solutions that don’t lock clients into a particular type of technology or a specific vendor.
The data center network is going through a major transformation to support server virtualization and cloud computing, convergence of data storage, server-to-server traffic and new high-performance applications. To address these needs, the data center network fabric, the system network architecture that interconnects server devices and storage devices in a data center environment, has become a critical lynchpin of data center architecture. And the move to flat networks is enabling the fabric to help data go faster. And for today’s requirements, faster is most definitely better.