Dynamic Networking: It's All in the Fabric
In the cloud, data environments must be scalable, resilient and, above all, highly cost-efficient. They must also be dynamic, able to remake themselves at a moment’s notice according to the needs of the user. That dynamism has proven elusive, but that may soon change. Networking platform developers are increasingly turning toward fabric architectures to provide the broad interconnectedness required of highly dynamic infrastructure.
Brocade is one of the latest to further its fabric-based approach to networking, this time with a direct nod to its cloud potential. The company has issued a VCS plug-in for OpenStack environments, essentially allowing enterprises to extend in-house network automation and elasticity across distributed architectures. The system is a key component in the company’s On-Demand Data Center strategy, which promises to provide customized data environments through software-based management.
HP builds dynamic network fabrics into the FlexNetwork architecture, recently upgraded with the new 5900 Virtual Switch, tools like the Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregator (VEPA) and the Virtualized Services Router (VSR), and related software to extend higher-order network functions like policy and QoS management across disparate VMware environments. In addition, HP says the virtual machine itself can now encapsulate full network services, allowing it to create the network it needs to satisfy application requirements. The system can also be designed around the 1190 OpenFlow aggregation switch and the 12900 series, backed by Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) technology to accommodate traffic spikes.
Dell Active Fabric Manager
Dell now offers the new Active Fabric Manager, built from automation technology acquired from Force10 Networks, with an eye toward converging disparate storage network suites under a single user interface. The platform extends control of design, deployment, and other tasks across IP storage, Fibre Channel, and FCoE infrastructure without requiring specialized storage networking knowledge or time-consuming code rewrites. At the same time, Dell has released a new top-of-rack switch, the S5000, which bridges the traditional divide between SAN and LAN infrastructure.
Some smaller firms, meanwhile, are angling for a greater share of the enterprise market through innovative fabric-based platforms. 6connect, for example, has gained a high-profile following with its ProVision dynamic network provisioning (DNP) system, which provides discovery, configuration, and other functions across internal, cloud-based, and mobile infrastructures. EMC Labs and Amazon, among others, use the system for automated provisioning, peering and management functions.
Just as real fabric comes in many different styles and patters, network fabrics will likely exhibit many diverse characteristics once vendors see widespread deployment in the enterprise. With the growing diversity of data centers out there – from traditional enterprise facilities to modern web-facing or host-oriented structures – a one-size-fits-all fabric isn’t likely.
That means the enterprise industry is probably in for a lengthy period of trial and error as designers seek to tailor (sorry) their fabrics for select data environments. Once in place, however, fabric technology should do away with nearly all of the artificial constraints that currently hamper traffic flow on today’s physical infrastructure.