The cloud era presents data centers with new challenges. Their technological resources must be significantly expanded to enable rapid provisioning of high-quality services. Virtualization enables the extremely rapid integration and deployment of new servers and applications. However, the data center LAN often represents a bottleneck. Virtualized environments require a network that is extremely flexible, and cloud computing puts strain on conventional LAN architectures.
Traditional architectures comprising access, aggregation and core layers no longer meet the needs of today’s data centers. The majority’s share of LAN load is no longer vertical but horizontal: between servers, or between storage systems and servers. And legacy infrastructures comprising a wide variety of components require high maintenance effort. Frequently, lack of standardization means that each LAN component has to be managed separately, which is costly, time-consuming, and error-prone.
Inefficient LANs with inadequate transparency
Data center LANs must now deliver far greater performance. But many operators, regarding these networks as technologically unexciting, have neglected them. The end result is often a jumble of mismatched hardware, and a diverse assortment of management and monitoring tools. Under these circumstances, efficiency and automation are unattainable. Whenever new systems are rolled out, network administrators are faced with difficult questions: whether and how the LAN components can be harmonized with the existing network, and how new systems will impact interoperability between components.
The benefits of standardization
Against this background, data center LANs need to be based on a consistent, homogeneous architecture that is both flexible and efficient to operate. As part of the Managed LAN Services (MLS) architecture, these are met by modular network design. The aim is to minimize a network’s complexity and unique characteristics without affecting its ability to meet highly specific requirements.
Today’s networks are increasingly being replaced by 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE), which supports data center scenarios with a range of 10GbE interfaces. A key advantage of this technology is the option of scaling to 40 Gbit/s and 100 Gigabit Ethernet. The former is suitable, for example, for the core and aggregation layers of data center architectures and for environments featuring top-of-rack switches.