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Throwing Bandwidth At Your Network Problems Isn't Enough

The data center is undergoing an unprecedented change, with new demands, vendors, technologies and architectures. In a three-part series, Network Computing takes a closer look at what's happening in the data center, starting with networking, and followed by servers and architectures.

The good old days of just throwing bandwidth at your network problems are over. Data center networks are being affected by flattening, convergence and server virtualization, says Jim Frey, managing research director, Enterprise Management Associates. "The first two are somewhat related, and reflect a move toward simplicity and higher capacity as data and storage traffic is being sent over common wires. Flatter, converged networks represent new requirements and new competitive fronts, though, in my opinion, the existing, established network equipment manufacturers are well aware of this and are already well engaged."

Network Computing Special Report: How Cisco Is Changing The Datacenter
Part 2 - Cisco Faces Uphill Battle Selling Data Center Servers
Part 3 - Lots of Changes, But Top Storage Vendor Lineup To Remain Intact
Part 4 - Data Centers: Who's On First?
Part 5 - Data-Center Diversity Drives IT Agendas

The huge and growing interest in converged infrastructure solutions--such as IBM's BladeCenter, HP's Matrix and the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition's Vblock-- is part of this, as well, he adds. "Though this largely affects the server/systems side of the data center equation, the integrated networking aspects of these solutions must also be taken into account when defining data center architectures. Further, the integrated, multidomain aspect of converged infrastructure--compute, storage and networking--presents new challenges and opportunities for integrated and converged management."

Frey thinks server virtualization is an enabling technology that will have a significant long-term effect on data center networking as higher-order traffic management, security and manipulation are increasingly delivered within virtual networking devices, such as virtual switches, virtual routers, virtual security appliances, virtual application delivery controller appliances and virtual WAN optimization appliances.

"This is a very important trend as it is a world of pure software, meaning that traditional barriers to entry for new and disruptive technology vendors are significantly lower. Most of the traditional network infrastructure vendors have recognized this, and most are moving to offer solutions for it, but we'll be watching this space particularly closely going forward as it's likely to be very dynamic, in 2011 and beyond," he says.

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