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The Role of Software in Transforming Data Center Infrastructure

February 10, 2017

On the long and bumpy but worthwhile road to digital transformation, network evolution is a necessity. A perfect storm of variables is pushing demand for bigger, better, faster and more efficient networking technologies and it’s only a matter of time before network infrastructure transforms to meet demand.

A recent blog series from Fiber Mountain, a company that focuses on agile and efficient network infrastructure and technologies, discusses the trip to digital transformation and the available technologies for transformation of data center and network infrastructure. The company reasons that outdated and manual processes simply can’t keep pace with today’s networking and data center demands and a massive overhaul is long overdue.

Today’s data centers are typically designed using a three-tier architecture that really can’t adequately support increasing demands. The current design includes an access layer of top-of-rack switches, providing connectivity among servers in the rack as well as access outside the rack. The aggregation layer consists of end-of-row switches that connect different racks within a row, and also provide access outside the row. And the core layer of massive centralized switches offers connectivity between rows as well as outside of the data center.

As networks have steadily shifted to fiber optic connectivity, connection density has become critical, creating a bottleneck among the top-of-rack access layer of switches. This traffic jam hinders performance and has greatly held back network infrastructure. Some data centers have transformed to a “spine and leaf” architecture, featuring more paths on each rack and a fabric pattern of interconnectivity. But this type of setup is still fixed and doesn’t meet the demands of ever evolving applications and technologies.

Thankfully, the new hyperscale breed of data centers is steadily evolving to meet the demands of Web-scale networking infrastructure. Typically based on open standards, these data centers utilize a dynamic, software-based approach to infrastructure and resource management enabling scalability and flexibility.

“The physical layer of the data center, also known as Layer 1, needs to become a software-controllable network asset,” writes Fiber Mountain. “This will enable new network architectures that are much more agile and adaptable than in the past. Our always-on culture will keep demanding new levels of resilience and responsiveness - for spikes in demand, for disaster recovery, and for developing new services we have not yet imagined.”

Fiber Mountain and companies like it are working to create a dynamic physical layer that utilizes SDN for management and control. By layering software control onto physical infrastructure, data centers have a logical upgrade path to a more dynamic and flexible infrastructure, a necessity for the next generation of networks.

Edited by Alicia Young

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