Datacenter architectures are constantly evolving as compute, storage, and networking innovations lead to constant evolution and improvement. COVID-19 is accelerating many trends in technology. Digital transformation projects that would take years or be in industries that are slow to deploy are going through years’ worth of innovation in a matter of months.
K-12 online learning is a great example of a rapid shift to Cloud-based tools requiring a massive bandwidth explosion. In online learning, this step function in bandwidth demand will likely change the education vertical permanently, even when classrooms begin to refill. The paradigm shift of where users reside and how they access data will persist, with 5G magnifiying the need for network changes to keep pace as available bandwidth increased. Unlicensed spectrum complements 5G as additional spectrum availability increases total available bandwidth and will allow for all sorts of new IoT devices with additional information processing in the Cloud for each IoT device.
For networking, three changes are putting pressure on networks and driving design. First, servers are getting more efficient and driving an increasing amount of traffic onto the network. More efficient servers change the architectural relationship between the Top-of-Rack (TOR) and aggregation/spine layers of the network. At toppehe very least, cloud providers need additional aggregation tiers.
Second, the top of the network needs additional tiers of networking. As data centers move from single-building to multi-building deployments, additional tiers are needed to connect buildings in both the same facility and between regions. At a minimum, Data Center Interconnect (DCI) introduces two new tiers of datacenter networking.
Third, high-speed ASICs, 12.8 Tbps and higher, offer advantages in fixed form factor boxes compared to modular chassis. The building blocks shift towards 1RU, and 2RU pizza boxes switches with copper interconnects vs. the backplane of a chassis. Single racks can approach and are about to exceed 100 Tbps capacity in a non-blocking way.
Hyperscalers use of DDC is increasing rapidly, and use cases are emerging beyond the cloud. Given the additional networking tiers, the cloud is testing and getting ready to deploy DDC elements in the first modular aggregation tier, utilizing L2 ASICs and is exploring the use of Fixed boxes in the L3+/routing space. DDC, or fixed CLOS architectures, have been around for a while and are proven. Advances in cabling and high-speed ASICs are helping push for more widespread adoption.
Demand doesn’t stop there. The three largest western Router vendors have all announced 1RU platforms to support the trend of Fixed topologies. To date, there are over ten unique ASICs, and nearly two dozen system companies with product offerings well-suited to this change of the architecture - in a way, a record number of platforms.
Beyond hypserscalers, traditional service providers see DDC as an architecture that will increase agility and create a more cloud-like architecture in their networks. Peering sights, 5G networks, and traditional bandwidth expansion can all potentially benefit from moving away from Modular chassis and towards Fixed architectures.
By Alan Weckel, @AlanWeckel, Founder and Technology Analyst at 650 Group, @650Group