This technology will enable data center administrators to
use centralized management capabilities within a unified domain that serves
as a central nervous system for unified computing. By Nivedan Prakash
the advent of Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), fabric-based computing is
starting to enter the mainstream of enterprise computing. It is a method of
unifying the networkboth FC and Ethernetin data centers. FCoE is
the communication protocol which enables this unification. Its benefits range
from elimination of dual networksFCP and Ethernet (read cost reduction)to
simplification of the host-to-fabric connectivity.
According to industry experts, fabric-based computing is a concept, which helps
companies introduce a wire once deployment model. With this computing
model, although the configuration changes, companies will not have to install
new components or re-cable existing ones.
A unified computing architecture gives data centers room to scale while anticipating
future developments in technology. Unified computing elements are pre-engineered
to accommodate upcoming technologies such as 40 Gigabit Ethernet when it becomes
available. The architecture's simplicity allows data centers to scale in size,
performance and bandwidth without the historic added complexities of older platforms.
This approach helps increase ROI while protecting that investment over time.
Fabric-based computing is the next-generation architecture for enterprise
servers. It combines powerful server capabilities with advanced networking features
into a single virtual server configuration. In fabric-based computing, resources
are no longer tied to a specific physical machine. They can be reconfigured
on the fly without adding software layers. Everything is done at the hardware
level (CPU memory, network I/O, etc.). Reconfiguration doesnt happen at
the individual machine level but at the fabric level, said
Sundararaj Subbaravalu, Partner - Convergence, Healthcare and Technologies and
Founding Team Member, Anantara Solutions.
The availability of a large number of compute, storage and connectivity components
around this unified framework makes it an interesting trend to watch. With data
centers being run over capacity, there arises a need for unified architecture,
which can consolidate the network, storage, and compute components over a unified
The scene in India
computing is the best mechanism for data center consolidation and server
optimization. The growth drivers for this model in India are virtualization
along with cost advantages"
- Sumit Mukhija,
National Sales Manager Data Center, Cisco India and SAARC
advances in technology are helping data center operators cut cost by improving
overall efficiency and return on investment mostly by achieving the unification
of data transmission protocols and data management processes for backup
and disaster recovery"
- Satyaki Maitra,
Director SI Business,
According to an IDC report, the Indian data center services
market is expected to touch around Rs 10,000 crore by 2011 at a CAGR of 22.7%
over the two-year period, 2009-11. The overall India data center services market
was estimated at Rs 6,300 crore in 2009. The potential is high and adoption
levels in compute-intensive industry verticals such as pharma, insurance, consumer
banking and hedge funds are bound to increase.
Naveen Mishra, Principal Research Analyst, Gartner, was of the view that fabric-based
computing is a niche right now. The Indian market has seen a few early adopters,
especially some of the large data centers looking at a fabric-based environment
for different workloads but not necessarily for mission-critical workloads.
The early users of this technology are large banks, financial services companies
and some manufacturers. From the end users perspective, it has been long
awaited as it provides a great level of flexibility.
Industry watchers believe that many large enterprises in India are either evaluating
or have implemented pilot projects around fabric-based computing. The biggest
draw is seen around virtualized environments. The biggest growth in India would
be visible once the stability and acceptance of fabric-based compute frameworks
is established around enterprise applications. The ramp-up is expected over
the next 12-18 months.
Sumit Mukhija, National Sales Manager - Data Center, Cisco
India and SAARC, pointed out that the vendor had received an overwhelming response
from the Indian market. Fabric-based computing was, he felt, the best mechanism
for data center consolidation and server optimization. The growth drivers for
this model in India are virtualization along with cost advantages.
According to Mukhija, the benefits of virtualization are accepted and recognized
by organizations across verticals. In recent years, the majority of IT departments
around the world have moved beyond data center and infrastructure consolidation
to virtualization. However, despite the widespread adoption of virtualization,
data center operating costs are at an all-time high. The next-generation data
center needs to be viewed across all the discrete technology domains as a single,
integrated design. This can be achieved by adopting a fabric-based computing
Fabric-based computing helps reduce cost by eliminating the need for a parallel
set of components to support multiple data transmission protocols. Along with
the reduction in these infrastructure components on the server side, a similar
reduction on the network edge is possible, further reducing costs.
Aggregating the server's I/O resources saves significant capital expense. Consolidating
resources over the unified fabric eliminates the cost of underutilized Fiber
Channel HBAs and NICs as well as associated cabling complexity. Instead of being
designed to accommodate bandwidth peaks using a dedicated switch port for each
host, a data center can share remote Fiber Channel and Gigabit Ethernet ports,
enabling network designs based on average load across multiple servers. This
can save up to 50% of the cost of the I/O associated with a server.
Unification of data transmission protocols coupled with the unification
of data management processes has long been adopted by the industry. A parallel
set of components induces cost increments both during acquisition and during
the life cycle of data management that follows. Cost reductions achieved via
the elimination of redundant components are amongst the first objectives of
every CIO today. Although there are data centers that still use parallel sets
of components, their numbers are dwindling. Recent advances in technology are
helping data center operators cut cost by improving overall efficiency and RoI
mostly by achieving the unification of data transmission protocols and data
management processes for backup and disaster recovery, asserted Satyaki
Maitra, Director - SI Business, NetApp India.
Maitra added that fabric-based computing would usher in the next level of unification,
this time at the network layer, by eliminating two different layers of network
namely Fiber Channel and Ethernet hardware. The ripple effect in cost reduction
is witnessed both in acquisition and in operations. Large adoptions will tilt
the cost model further towards a shorter RoI.
Moreover, the fabric-based computing architecture can deliver up to four times
the compute and four times the bandwidth capacity in the same footprint, up
to 92% fewer points of management than legacy networks, up to 30% greater application
throughput with the Virtualized Interface Card, up to 76% database consolidation
with memory extension and a reduction in power consumption of up to 10%.
These results translate to reduced infrastructure complexity and sprawl, significantly
reduced costs and improved business agility. The solution delivers end-to-end
optimization for virtualized environments. It is built to meet today's demands
while being ready to accommodate future technologies including more powerful
processors and faster Ethernet standards as they become available.
Enabling wire once deployment
computing is a niche right now. The Indian market has seen a few early
adopters, especially some of the large data
centers looking at a fabric-based environment for different workloads
but not necessarily for mission-critical workloads"
- Naveen Mishra,
Principal Research Analyst,
computing combines powerful server capabilities with advanced networking
features into a single virtual server configuration. Resources are no
longer tied to a specific physical machine and they can be reconfigured
on the fly"
- Sundararaj Subbaravalu,
Partner Convergence, Healthcare, and Technologies and Founding
Team Member, Anantara Solutions
This technology enables a wire once deployment
model where changing configurations no longer means installing new components
or re-cabling existing ones. The concept of a unified fabric is to virtualize
data center resources and connect them through a high bandwidth network that
is scalable, offers high performance and enables the convergence of multiple
protocols onto a single physical network. These resources are compute, storage
and applications, which are connected via a network fabric.
According to Mukhija, Ciscos Server Fabric Switch creates a unified, wire-once
fabric that aggregates I/O and server resources. With the unified fabric, instead
of servers having many cables coming out of them, the server switch connects
every server with a single high-bandwidth, low-latency network cable (two cables
for redundancy). This setup aggregates Ethernet, Fiber Channel, and clustering
interconnects into a 10-Gbps InfiniBand cable. The server switch then connects
servers to a pool of shared Fiber Channel and Ethernet ports over line-rate
gateways and creates virtual I/O subsystems on each host, including virtual
HBAs and virtual IP interfaces. Servers can then share a centralized pool of
Ethernet and Fiber Channel ports that can be upgraded and serviced without affecting
With the meteoric rise of adoption of fabric-based
computing, terms like wire once are going to become common terminology
very soon. Clearly the use of such terms will help simplify the understanding
of benefits around this framework. Caution must be exercised to avoid over simplification.
The right expectations and right solutions would ensure the success of early
adopters and hence the final success of this framework, said Maitra.
In the recent past, Indian service providers have made significant
investments in the area of virtualization and now the market is observing initial
vendor investment for supporting fabric-based architectures. This is because
service providers are always looking to adopt technologies designed to reduce
cost and fabric-based computing is being watched as well as evaluated with great
interest. Although large deployments are still being planned, many SPs have
already adopted the framework for smaller application landscapes with their
Most IT service providers are increasingly investing in this space as the concept
allows organizations to increase effectiveness by maintaining IT disciplines
and accountability while increasing teamwork and collaboration. Server, network
and storage administrators can preserve accountability for their domain policies
while interoperating within a single integrated management environment. Computing
infrastructure can then be provisioned without the clumsy time-consuming coordination
required by legacy infrastructure. As data center roles and policies evolve,
individual responsibilities and system privileges can be easily modified and
new roles quickly created.
As per the latest indications from the market, 40% of Indian enterprises
are in a state of readiness to move to a newer platform, either completely,
or partially. This is in stark contrast to the mere 20%, which were interested
a year earlier. The primary reasons for increased fabric-based computing adoption
are efficient allocation of resources, resource pooling and distribution, liberation
of resources to focus on core competencies and, lastly, it helps SMBs embrace
this architecture on a pay-per-use mode, opined Subbaravalu.
Every technology provider either already has a product or intends to release
one in the near term. This technology is not a point solution but a ecosystem
of correctly tuned, tested and productized versions of multiple products. Moreover,
the selection of such solutions that scale to offer stringent SLAs required
for enterprise data centers will ensure success and help achieve RoI in a shorter
According to industry experts, fabric-based computing is expected to become
a reality for most enterprises in the near future. As a result of the virtualization
revolution of the past few years, new standards, technologies and integration
conventions are emerging. These innovations enable the design of a pre-integrated
data center solution from industry-standard components, rather than requiring
IT staff or consultants to integrate their own network, computing and virtualization
platforms to create a data center solution.
In order to adopt this market transition, organizations need to embrace an architecture
which uses unified fabric and provides transport for LAN, storage and high-performance
computing traffic over a single, cohesive infrastructure. This approach can
consolidate or entirely eliminate multiple server adapters, chassis switches,
cables and other supporting infrastructure. This simplification can also reduce
by half the supporting infrastructure requiring power, cooling, management and
security as compared to traditional computing environments.
[As with many new supposedly disruptive technologies,
fabric-based computing faces resistance largely because adopting it necessitates
replacing a lot of the network/switching fabric in an enterprise which could
prove expensive. While the benefits are tangible, the initial hump of CAPEX
has to be crossed to get to them. - Editor]