Could this be the answer to the network bottleneck
Corporate plans for private cloud infrastructures and device independent access to core data has meant many data centre assets are not up to the job. One possible solution to the data centre networking lag is fabric switching, which significantly simplifies complex architectures, enabling savings on power and property, not to mention multiples of increase in data access speeds
June 2, 2011
1. The network is the laggard
The balance of power between elements of IT systems often moves in a cyclical manner. This is no less the case at the moment, now that powerful data processing capabilities are supported by elegant, scalable applications, but hampered by limitations in networking infrastructure, according to comms specialist Juniper Networks.
2. Cloud busting
Market trends like cloud computing and mobile internet have put exponentially greater strains on enterprise networks, because they demand a faster flow of data.The company is touting what it calls a step-change in networking power, under the umbrella of its recently announced Q-Fabric switch, to set the balance right.
3. Designs on the enterprise
The company invited its technology partners to Barcelona last week to a conference in order to familiarise them with what it is bringing to the market. Juniper has relationships with the likes of BT, Dell, IBM and Ericsson, as well as some less well-known third parties. The customer split is around 70 per cent to 30 per cent between networking service providers and end-user enterprise organisations respectively. The growth is in the enterprise sector, although Juniper is a small player here, compared to giants in the market like Cisco.
4. Fast mobile access
What Juniper EMEA Snr VP Sean Dolan found when talking to these partners was that the demand for bandwidth has never been higher. The need for a clear view on the cost of IT services was also a big talking point. There is a big drive amongst end-user companies to reduce operational expenditure set aside for data handling and to rationalise the data-centre estate. At the same time, the infrastructure is being collapsed into one network to carry voice and data.
5. Network refresh
Cloud computing may shift data centre overheads to service providers, but Dolan recognises that many enterprises will move first to private cloud models, where internal data centres will be overstretched by the increased utilisation. According to Dolan, many company's networks are starting to creak under the strain and due for a refresh.
6. Network complexity
As networks have become increasingly complex, encompassing commodity server estates and access reaching out over the enterprise to remote locations, latency has increased and slowed performance. This increasing complexity has also made it more difficult to maintain network security, without restricting access to data.
7. Tyranny of trees
According to Juniper SVP and GM platform systems group, Alex Gray the multiple tier architectures of conventional data centres have a series of checkpoints where routing decisions are made, slowing up the transfer of data. They are not optimised for virtualisation that can place data repositories outside the optimal server bubble.
8. Virtual vulnerabilities
Firewalls cast a security shadow over parts of the network and once data repositories are placed outside that, retrieving data becomes more labour intensive.
9. Fabric commitment
Enter Juniper's Q-Fabric platform, which creates a logical lattice architecture so that every part of the network is directly connected to every other part. Dolan explains that Q-Fabric is three years in development and is more advanced along the cycle than Juniper's competitors. Juniper spends around 20 per cent of its turnover on R&D including its own integrated circuit design. $150m has been spent on fabric switching development over the last three years, which gives an indication of the company's commitment to the technology.
10. Collapsed tiers
Q-Fabric allows the three-tier data centre architecture to be collapsed to one tier, reducing the overall server requirement and its attendant total cost of ownership. Perhaps more importantly, it enhances data centre performance, while at the same time improving data centre security by placing all of the network under the firewall shadow, if necessary.
11. Interim measure
However, there's a catch. Q-Fabric isn't available yet. It's going to take another two years for it to reach the stage in its development when it can be seriously deployed. In the meantime, Juniper has an interim architecture, based on its SRX5800 platform, which goes some way to simplifying the data centre architecture and paves the way to making it Q-Fabric ready.According to Juniper CFO Robyn Denholm, the vertical markets that are likely to benefit most from a fabric-based platform are those that rely heavily on super-fast transaction processing, such as some elements of investment financial services and exchanges. Retail, which is a ready customer for systems like real-time customer data analysis, could also be a likely market for the platform.
12. Enhancements off the chart
The claims made by the team at Juniper are quite bold and if they are true, could lead to any enterprise deploying fabric switching gaining a strategic advantage over market competitors. However, the company can provide little in the way of proof that these improvements are easily achievable. Many questions still have to be answered over what the total cost of migrating over from conventional data centre architectures is likely to be, how straightforward building a fabric-based data centre will be and whether the skill base needed to build and maintain one is readily and affordably available.