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Which Vendors to Rely On When it Comes to Data Center Design: Networking

January 08, 2017

The purpose of data centers is for computers to process data. Powerful servers are the data center's stars. But without an efficient network, no matter how fast the servers are, those data aren’t going anywhere. Particularly when it comes to big data analytics, which requires moving large amounts of data around, network capacity is crucial. Building a network that can handle data needs requires making the right design decisions and working with trusted vendors.

Network Design Decisions

The requirements for data center networking to support big data go beyond speed. Networks must be cost-effective, scalable, and resilient. They must also allow optimized routing for traffic. These requirements mean design decisions go beyond choosing Ethernet speeds.

Traditional network designs implement hierarchical models based on two or three layers, with base access layers connecting servers to the network and aggregation and core layers routing the traffic. This design introduces latency due to traffic flowing through multiple layers and presents challenges for scalability and fault tolerance. In particular, so-called east-west traffic, which flows within the data center, can overwhelm this model.

The rise of cloud computing and virtualization increases east-west traffic, so an alternative topology has developed, making use of a leaf-spine model. In this flattened model, leaf switches in the access layer mesh to spine switches, forming an Ethernet fabric. This design minimizes latency and reduces bottlenecks.

Some network designs combine the two, with pods containing a leaf-and-spine network connected to a core layer. This design allows pods to act as network modules tailored to meet specific functional requirements.

Data center virtualization, which started with servers and storage, has also reached networking. Software defined networks (SDNs) make network control and management easier by abstracting services from the underlying hardware. Scalability in particular becomes simple with SDNs, as traffic flow is managed through software, and new hardware merely creates more potential routes. However, an SDN isn't appropriate everywhere, and administrators should evaluate whether or not it fits the environment.

Vendors to Work With

Cisco is a leading vendor in networking, including SDNs. It  has built an SDN strategy around an application-centric infrastructure combined with a programmable fabric and programmable network. Cisco Validated Designs present pre-tested solutions to address typical use cases. Their FabricPath product supports network topologies that satisfy requirements for large virtualization environments and high-performance computing. In addition to products, Cisco offers support services to help create the most effective design to meet customer needs.

Juniper Networks provides a library covering network issues from the fundamentals of technology through solutions addressing common challenges. Its products cover the networking space, including routers, switches, security devices, and network management software. Within the SDN space, its MetaFabric architecture provides the ability to support both physical and virtual infrastructure elements. Its professional services assist with network building and implementation, while additional services provide support after installation.

Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE) provides routers, switches, and other networking devices to support both physical and virtual networks. Its Intelligent Management Center allows management of all kinds of devices with IP addresses, from any vendor. HPE FlexFabric supports converged, scalable data center architecture. HPE's support for SDNs consists of the SDN open ecosystem, which includes a developer's kit and app store.

Dell networking offers multiple series of Ethernet switches, as well as support for SDNs through Dell Networking Active Fabric. Its SDN implementation is completely vendor-agnostic, allowing customers to choose the most appropriate products from any supplier. Dell offers support in selecting the right product through live online chat, telephone, and emails with its sales team.

Aruba Networks is an HPE company specializing in networks to support mobile applications. Its hardware products include switches, wireless access points, and mobility controllers; software products include AirWave, for central management of wired and wireless networks containing equipment from multiple vendors.

Working with the right vendors is key for value-added resellers to offer the best solutions to their customers. Partner with us and partner with any of the networking vendors listed above to build networks that meet your customers' needs now and grow with them in the future.