Data Centre Switching

Our area of expertise in Network Management always has and always will have a role to play in the data centre. But the data centre has traditionally had two distinct networks running in it. The Data Network and the Storage Network. As Network Managers we have rarely been involved in the Storage Network side of Data Centre, but those days appear to be over as the Storage and Data Networks are on a collision course.

Many of you may think I am behind the times, and in some ways I am. To small and medium enterprises though, this is a whole new ball game. Just like the adoption of IP Telephony and VoIP technologies, it is not until the products become affordable that the masses start deploying.

The Data Center is or was  comprised of two distinct camps. The Server Guys and the Network Guys. They usually play well together and for the most part the camps were completely separate, less the Ethernet cable that went between the server and the switch. Those days appear to be gone as the Storage Network is starting to run over the Data Network. What I like about this is that it is not the other way around. If the Data Network had to run over the Storage Infrastructure we’d all be in trouble. At least this way us Data guys are still in control.

FCoE – Fibre Channel over Ethernet is the topic I am referring to. Traditionally Fibre Channel ran between Server and SAN and can run at 1, 2,4, 8 and now 16 Gbps. Much more than the traditional Data Network. But with the quick adoption of 10Gig Ethernet and 40/100 Gig on the way, there is no need to maintain two distinct networks in the data centre. BTW I did not spell Centre wrong, that is the way it is spelled in Canada.

So here we are again on a collision course with Data Centre managers. We already battled the tradition Telephony guys and I’m pretty sure the Networking groups won that battle… There were never enough standards in traditional Telephony. The Data Centre is a different beast though and will require both groups to work together to ensure success.

If FCoE takes off the way I believe it will we will once again be consolidating the data centre. This time instead of consolidating Servers we will be consolidating Data and SAN switching and collapsing everything down to one “Unified Network”.

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