Greg Ferro and Jon Hudson - Brocade Tech Day - theCUBE





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Published on Sep 12, 2012

Is it time to flatten the network? It is starting to seem that way. Today's network is tremendously complex with its tree-type structure. It is not designed for mobile technologies nor the big data that has steadily increased.

Any mid-sized network has thousands of endpoints. Smartphones and tablets are just the start. Tens of thousands of objects are now starting to come online. APIs are connecting smart systems through sensors that monitor physical assets of all types.

That means some changes to how the data center operates. Is it smart to have thousands of switches and routers or a way to connect all the devices in the network with a data fabric?

Cisco has been the leader in the networking space for the past decade. There are increasing signs that the market has shifted considerably. IBM has entered the space more as a partner than a direct competitor with both HP and Juniper Networks. Co-opetition rules the networking industry.

Juniper is one of a growing number of providers that proposes that the network becomes a flat, data fabric. In February it released Juniper QFabric that the company says will reduce the needed layers in a datacenter.

According to Network World, "QFabric simplifies the data centre infrastructure, driving up throughput, scalability and efficiency while reducing latency, operating costs and the number of devices required for a networking architecture."

This can do three things:

Provide Better Security: There is no way to secure every endpoint. QFabric gives the ability to manage the network as a data fabric, focusing on the most exposed areas. Each device is connected to the network. There is one view of the network. There are a number of advantages to this approach. Here are three that come to mind:

Greater Speed: A flat network is fast. It is designed for the mobile age. Juniper states that QFabric is ten times faster than legacy networks. Is this true? Arguably, yes. But there is questions about how well a flat network scales.

Pooled Resources: Sharing data with users and across applications is what defines the modern cloud infrastructure. Applications need to be easily provisioned and deployed. Stuart Miniman of Wikibon writes that virtualization has been the catalyst for this shift to a focus on a pooled resource capability:

On the network side, virtualization, specifically applications like VMware vMotion, requires more bandwidth between servers (see Greg Ferro's excellent explanation of "East West" Bandwidth), which is leading vendors to flatten the traditional 3-tier architecture and look for alternatives to Spanning Tree Protocol. Cisco is at the leading edge of supporting virtualization; both the Nexus (switch) and UCS (server) product lines were designed to intersect where this trend is going. The graphic below gives a good visualization of how Cisco believes that it is maintaining a mix of sustaining and disruptive innovation.

The advantages of a flat network do not mean that it is the cure-all to the legacy network. More so, it is representative of the trends that dominate our world in an information age.


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