No doubt, there are consumers of data center services who share my despair over getting access to the unrestricted wonders enabled by ongoing innovations in social, mobile, cloud and big data. IDC has dubbed those innovations collectively as the 3rd Platform, which it foresees completely transforming the provisioning, application and use of IT solutions. (FYI, mainframe was the first platform, client/server computing the second).
Many data center networks are struggling to adapt to today’s workloads, let alone prepare for those of tomorrow. Those who thought server consolidation and virtualization of virtually everything would solve all their problems are finding that they are highlighting the need for greater network agility, utilization, and availability.
As noted analyst Zeus Kerravala writes in a recent report, “While the majority has evolved as virtualization technology has matured, the network has yet to change. The architecture used in data centers today is fundamentally the same as the architecture deployed 20 years ago.”
Traditional networks were never designed for today's astronomical growth in bandwidth-intensive applications. Ultimately, the hardware-based intelligence used in most data center networking architectures will give way to software-defined networking (SDN), which promises to disaggregate the traditional vertically integrated networking stack in order to improve network flexibility and manageability.
Sounds great, right? But no established enterprise is going to just chuck all of yesterday’s technology for the promise of tomorrow’s. But neither can they afford to stand pat with the status quo. What they need is a migration path that bridges the reality of today with the promise of tomorrow.
Thankfully, the foundation for that bridge rests on Ethernet, the resilient and transforming networking technology that has shown the ability to evolve. "Ethernet fabrics" combine the familiarity of Ethernet networks with the data center-hardened reliability and performance characteristics of fabric technologies such as Fibre Channel. They will enable virtualized data centers to add network capacity and achieve new levels of operational simplicity.
I’m guessing most data centers will move in this direction long before my cable provider brings 10Gbps performance into my home.