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

GEHA used a local managed services provider to help with setting up some of the more complex pieces of the architecture. "But from the time we unpacked the boxes to the time the environment was running was two days," says Bryan. "It was very straightforward."

When he used to look around his data center, all Dan Shipley, architect at Supplies Network, would see was a spaghetti mess of cables and switches that were expensive to manage and error-prone.

And the performance, he adds, is "jaw-dropping." A test they did copying a 4-gigabyte ISO file from one blade to another blade through the network, with the network and storage going through the same fabric, occurred in less than a second, "and we didn't even see the transfer; I didn't think it actually copied," he says.

IT has now utilized the fabric for its backup environment with software from CommVault. Bryan says the association is seeing performance of about a terabyte an hour of throughput on the network, "which is probably eight to 10 times greater than before" the fabric was in place.

Today, all of GEHA's production traffic is on the fabric, and Bryan says he couldn't be more pleased with the infrastructure. He says scaling it out is not an issue, and is one of the major advantages with converged fabric and speed. GEHA is also able to run a very dense workload of virtual machines on a single blade, he says. "Instead of having to spend a lot of money on a lot of blades, you can increase the ROI on those blades without sacrificing performance," says Bryan.

Laliberte says he sees a long life ahead for data center fabrics, noting that this type of architecture "is just getting started. If you think about complexity and size, and you have thousands of servers in your environment and thousands of switches, any kind of architecture change isn't done lightly and takes time to evolve."

Just as it took time for a three-tier architecture to evolve, it will take time for three tier to get broken down to two tier, he says, adding that flat fabric is the next logical step. "These things get announced and are available, but it still takes years to get widespread deployments," says Laliberte.

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor. She can be reached at

Read more about data center in Computerworld's Data Center Topic Center.

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