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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  21 Jun 2011

INFOTECH: Network Convergence - Data Centre Consolidation's Next Step

 





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Data centre networks are highly complex environments, often incorporating
separate Ethernet and Fibre channels for running data and storage networking
respectively. Along with these separate channels large numbers of adaptors,
switches and cables are often present, adding to the complexity of
configuration and management.

These factors contribute to several common issues experienced within the
data centre, including long provisioning times due to difficulties
associated with planning and managing data growth, and increased cost and
complexity of management because of the disparate infrastructures associated
with the separate channels. Other problems experienced often include
inflexibility when it comes to growth or shifts in user demand, as well as a
tendency towards error-prone environments, again due to the complexity of
the environment itself and the large amount of manual effort that is
required to maintain it.

As data centres have grown to become mission critical aspects of any modern
business, these problems have begun to multiply and increase in their impact
on the business. This has resulted in a move over the years towards
increasing network convergence in the data centre in an effort to minimise
the complexity of the environment and the associated issues and costs.

Recently the drive towards a consolidated and converged data centre
networking environment has accelerated thanks to a number of technological
and market related factors. Advances in Ethernet technology have grown to
support converged environments and is fast becoming able to serve as the
platform for convergence. This provides several advantages, as it is an
environment that experiences no 'losses' which includes traffic-specific,
configurable bandwidth allocation and priority-based flow controls that
enable quality of service (QoS).

Added to this, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) is fast becoming a
reality, and a variety of FCoE-enabled Converged Network Adaptors and
Ethernet switches are now available which enable faster and easier
consolidation of the different environments within the data centre itself.

The third technological advance driving convergence is the growth in
adoption of server virtualisation and blade server computing, which enables
the consolidation of multiple virtual servers onto a single physical
platform. This creates the need for multiple networks to accommodate the
virtual machines' bandwidth and QoS requirements, which in turn supports the
need for a converged network environment to minimise the complexity of this.


On a business front, the benefit of a converged network in the data centre
in terms of vastly improved total cost of ownership (TCO) has become
compelling, and this perhaps is the most important factor driving businesses
to adopt convergence. Network convergence in the data centre provides
benefits for capital expenses, by streamlining the network infrastructure
and reducing the number of adaptors, switches and cables needed, and for
operational expenses, as the simplified infrastructure enables ongoing power
reduction, space savings and decreased cooling and management expenses.

Many components have enabled the converged data centre network to become a
reality, but the Converged Network Adaptor (CNA) has played a critical role,
as it combines Ethernet and Fibre Channel functionality into a single
adaptor, greatly decreasing the complexity of server configurations. A CNA
will also reduce the requirements on network management, which in turn will
allow network administrators to concentrate on more productive activities,
contributing positively towards the bottom line of the business.

Network convergence has long been an attractive idea when it comes to the
data centre, because of the ability to significantly decrease costs on both
equipment and management. However it has remained a fairly elusive concept
because of the large investments organisations have already made into their
existing network infrastructures.

Now, thanks to new technology such as the CNA, which enables the convenient
consolidation of Fibre Channel and Ethernet, data centre consolidation can
evolve into network convergence and organisations can take advantage of
reduced capital and operating expenses. Through this innovative technology
businesses can achieve these cost savings while to a large extent preserving
existing infrastructure investments, removing the traditional barriers to

entry when it comes to taking the next step in data centre consolidation.


 
 
 
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