Next-generation data center networking is being driven by open source hardware and software initiatives that are often led by web titans like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and LinkedIn, according to a new report from SDxCentral.
These web companies are crucial because they can handle the processing, networking, and storage capacity required to serve millions to billions of users, according to SDxCentral’s Next Gen Data Center Networking Report. As a result, these companies and others have moved from proprietary networking devices, to open and streamlined hardware based on merchant silicon, the report says.
Google is on its fifth (and possibly even sixth) deployment of next-gen data center networking, and the key to its design is that Google wants to use a full cloud infrastructure with networking built-in. Google’s end goal in its data center network development is to run applications without regard to how the network is topologically laid out.
Facebook is strong in open computing hardware and was crucial to the creation of the Open Compute Project (OCP). At the data center level, Facebook uses a pod-based design. Specifically, Facebook’s Altoona data center design uses a combination of fabric switches in each pod in its leaf-spine network.
Microsoft Azure’s network uses software-defined networking (SDN) extensively. Azure’s Clos Fabric connects its leaf switches to the next tier up of row spine switches. This helps it connect to a data center spine and connect regional spines as well. The cloud platform also feeds monitoring information into its SDN controls for network optimization and reliability.
The driving forces behind LinkedIn’s next-gen data center networking efforts are its Project Altair and Project Falco. Project Altair at LinkedIn includes a largely scalable data center fabric that is designed to replace its older networks that depend on large chassis-based boxes. Project Falco yielded a disaggregated switch called Pigeon — based on merchant silicon — to provide a switching platform.
The Linux Foundation and Associated Projects
With the importance of open source and SDN, virtual switches, and open software stacks, the Linux Foundation has become highly relevant to the next-gen data center networking evolution.
Some of the key networking software projects at the Linux Foundation include Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD), FD.io, IOvisor, ONOS, Open vSwitch, OpenDaylight, and OpenSwitch.
Over the course of 2017 and 2018, the SDxCentral report said it expects to see significant innovations from these and other software projects and will have a large impact on the next-gen data center.