Data Center


Build Your Own Ethernet Fabric (BYOEF)

by Brook.Reams_1 on ‎12-20-2012 12:27 PM (25 Views)

If you have nine minutes, watch this video from the Gartner Data Center Conference from earlier this month.

Josh Oelrich, of the Strategic Solutions Lab, narates a demonstration of building a VCS Fabric using a single tool, a cable. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Toward the end of the demonstration, when a cable is removed, nothing happens to the live application traffic. It just continues to run. This is the compellilng difference between VCS Fabric technology and classic Spanning Tree for layer 2 networks; a VCS Fabric is auto-healing with automatic traffic rerouting in less than the blink of an eye.

In a similar vein, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about Software Defined Networks (SDN) last Friday by one of our partners, Vista Solutions. There were some 60 people from companies in the metro-Denver area. Steve Smoot, CTO at Riverbed, gave a talk about the data center of the future and the role SDN can play, and then the panel convened to take questions and discuss this topic. I asked the audience how many were responsible ONLY for the network? There was only one hand. Everyone else in that room had to manage networks AND servers or networks AND storage, or all three.

I asked how many thought their network had an architecture, or did it now look like an ad-hoc assembly of parts?  There were a lot of smiles and knowing chuckles. They all had experienced the increased entropy common to any physical infrastructure.  Although entropy is a thermodynamic property, it is commonly associated with the tendency for disorder to increase in a system. Steve pointed out that reducing entropy requires putting energy in, which meant you had to have time available to do the necessary housekeeping. Ah, but to another question about how many of them had time to think about the future, there were only about 10 hands that haltingly went up.

In his talk, Steve pointed out that a benefit from SDN was the dramatic reduction in time to complete not only initial provisioning, but the ever present move, add, change (MAC) activities where a lot of time goes. Time spent on MAC activities means less time spent on planning or engaging with the business owners so you can stay one step ahead. I pointed out that minimizing time spent on repetitive configuration tasks requires taking a step back and looking at the assumptions underlying network architecture. Changing a few fundamental assumptions can change everything. SDN changes assumptions about how you configure networks using abstractions such as services and OpenFlow instead of physical configuration of every port by hand using a CLI. Similarly, a VCS Fabric is a great example of how simple network management is when you change some fundamental assumptions and thereby eliminate complexity.

I think you could say Brocade VCS Fabric technology keeps network entropy from increasing so frames keep flowing smoothly and you have more time to plan and anticipate what the business owners are going to want next.  BYOEF Baby.