Data Center

Sometimes The Foundation Gets Overlooked

by on ‎08-12-2011 01:05 PM (1,599 Views)

Buildings require foundations, but most people don’t see them and so, don’t think much about them.  However, foundations are critical.  They are built before any other part of the building and if they aren’t done correctly then constructing the rest of the building and maintaining it become an on-going problem.

One of the more famous examples of a beautiful building with a bad foundation is the Fallingwater house designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Foundation problems plagued the owners and ultimately required very expensive foundation repairs to preserve the house.  Although an architectural tour de force, due to poor foundation design, Fallingwater nearly became “Fallingdown.

FallingWaterHouse.jpg

Source: SlipperyBrick

A network’s foundation is comprised of cabling and the IEEE standards that define link speeds and media type (e.g., optical, copper, twisted pair). Link speed directly affects the cable as the cable must meet stringent design criteria or the link can’t reliably transmit data.

Now, there is much talk about fabrics and the value they bring in overcoming the new demands placed on the network by server virtualization and storage over IP or Ethernet. Brocade has extolled the beauties of Ethernet Fabrics and talked about the fundamental changes in LAN design that are being driven by virtualization and the block storage over Ethernet using FCoE and iSCSI. But, what should we use to build a strong foundation for a data center fabric?

It’s 10 gigabit Ethernet, or 10 GE.  Along with that 10x increase in link rate over the earlier 1 GE technology, have come complimentary capabilities such as Enhanced Transmission Selection (ETS), Per-class Flow Control (PFC) and the emerging integration of link state routing at layer 2 (TRILL and SPB) to replace Spanning Tree while avoiding loops, providing equal cost multipath routing and multiple active links for higher utilization. Block storage has begun to use Ethernet via Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).  In turn, FCoE relies on the 10 GE foundation taking advantage of the complimentary IEEE standards to provide lossless, low latency networks essential for block storage transport.

The cable options for 10 GE now include optical links, copper via twinax and soon, twisted pair copper and RJ-45 connectors.  And, server vendors are including 10 GE LAN on motherboard (LOM) ports so 10 GE is “free” as it’s embedded in the server motherboard.

Without 10 GE in the data center, networks don't have the strength in the foundation to to carry the load.  As with buildings, if you don’t get the foundation right, bad things can happen.

FoundationFailure.jpg

Source: HABITEC Home and Building Inspections

Brocade provides 10 GbE products and last year introduced a new 10 GbE product line, the Brocade VDX family of data center switches.  The VDX provides a solid foundation of 10 GE technology.  Once you have VDX switches at the top of the server rack you can turn on a Brocade VCS Ethernet Fabric at any time to create a cloud-optimized network that’s perfect for virtualization as well as high performance, lossless, low latency transport of iSCSI and/or FCoE storage traffic.

For more information about Ethernet Fabrics, see What is an Ethernet fabric” by Greg Ferro on www.etherealmind.com.