Data center fabrics catching on, slowly

It takes some planning -- and expense -- to revamp switching gear at the enterprise level.

By Esther Shein, Computerworld |  Data Center

"I was afraid at first because ... I didn't know much about InfiniBand," he acknowledges, and most enterprise architectures run on Fibre Channel and Ethernet. "We brought [I/O Director] out here and did a bake-off with Cisco's [Unified Data Center]. It whooped their butt. It was way less cost, way faster, it was simple and easy to use and Xsigo's support has been fabulous," he says.

Previously, big database jobs would take 12 hours, Shipley says. Since the deployment of I/O Director, those same jobs run in less than three hours. Migrating a virtual machine from one host to another now takes seconds, as opposed to minutes, he says.

He says he was initially concerned that because Xsigo is a much smaller vendor, it might not be around over the long term. But, says Shipley, "we found out VMware uses these guys."

"What Xsigo is saying is, instead of having to use Ethernet and Fibre Channel, you can take all those out and put [their product] in and it creates a fabric," explains Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "They're right, but when you're talking about data center networking and data center fabrics, Xsigo is helping to create two tiers. But the Junipers and Ciscos and Brocades are trying to create that flat fabric."

InfiniBand is a great protocol, Laliberte adds, but cautions that it's not necessarily becoming more widely used. "It's still primarily in the realm of supercomputing sites that need ultra-fast computing."

Easy to implement

Like the IT executives at Walz Group, IT team leaders at GEHA believed that deploying a fabric model would not only meet the business requirements, but also reduce complexity, cost and staff needed to manage the data center. Bryan says the association also gained economies of scale by having a staff of two people who can manage an all-Ethernet environment, as opposed to needing additional personnel who are familiar with Fibre Channel.

"We didn't have anyone on our team who was an expert in Fibre Channel, and the only way to achieve getting the claims processing system to be redundant and highly available was to leverage the Ethernet fabric expertise, which we had on staff," he says.

Bryan says the association has been able to trim "probably a half million dollars of capital off the budget" since it didn't have to purchase any Fibre Channel switching, and a quarter of a million dollars in operating expenses since it didn't need staff to manage Fibre Channel. "Since collapsing everything to an Ethernet fabric, I was able to eliminate a whole stack of equipment," says Bryan.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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