Following on from Alberto Soto’s blog a few weeks ago on the key IT trends for 2012, we wanted to look into some of those trends in a little more depth.
Back in November, Ray Paquet, Managing VP at Gartner Inc. presented a Gartner Webinar on ‘Technology Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore’. What we were particularly pleased to see was that in Mr. Paquet’s Top 10 ‘Trends You Need to Watch’ - in with ‘The Evolution of Virtualization’, ‘Social Networks’, ‘Consumerization and the Tablet’, and ‘Cloud Computing’ – was ‘Fabrics’.
It’s going to interesting during 2012 and beyond to see how far enterprises move from adopting fabric network topologies, to complete ‘infrastructure convergence’; but awareness of fabric technology as the key enabler of many of the other trends noted (and all of those listed above) is clearly no longer in doubt.
The real question is ‘what is fabric?’ Or more specifically - when is a fabric really a Fabric? Of course as a leader in the SAN market, Brocade has been developing fabric network technologies for years. But helping customers adopt Fabric topologies in the data centre is going to take the expertise and understanding of IT Services Providers, VARs and SIs, to select help customers’ address their specific immediate and longer term needs. And an understanding of the fundamentals of Fabrics in the data centre – or to give them their full name Ethernet Fabrics - will become increasingly in demand.
So what is Ethernet Fabric? Simply it is a technology designed by Brocade and brought to market back in 2010, that enables Ethernet to be deployed in a fabric, rather than traditional, rigid hierarchical, topology - to form a highly flexible, simple to manage, cloud-ready, self-forming, auto-healing and highly resilient data centre network. It brings the ‘best bits’ of Ethernet, and the technology intelligence common in the storage environment - where fabric designs are fairly standard - together. It seems an obvious solution when you put it like that. It resolves all those buggy, lossy issues Ethernet is known for that make traditional Ethernet topologies poor conduits for cloud, high volume and latency sensitive applications, and slow to scale or deploy new solutions across.
There are two other things that are key: it makes network management more simple; and it works with the current infrastructure. There are quite a few ‘fabrics’ now out there; but gluing together old technology in a new way that is actually more complex, and more expensive, is not what Ethernet Fabrics are about.
I suspect 2012 will see several cases of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ where fabrics are concerned. Ethernet Fabrics make network management and deployment simple, reduce complexity in the network, reduce deployment and restructure times, and bind together the infrastructure that is already in place. It does not demand the full ‘rip and replace’ of the data centre network that puts off so many customers who are having to balance budget with business growth.
For anyone wanting more info, check out www.ethernetfabric.com, or our own website. And lastly do check out Mr. Paquet’s presentation if you haven’t already. If you want to understand the key trends that your customers will be asking you about it is very good place to start.