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Fiber Mountain is Transforming the Network Infrastructure

October 01, 2014

While the data center community has been somewhat aware of Cheshire, Conn.-based startup Fiber Mountain and its next generation approach to transforming data centers to make them more simple to manage and affordably scalable, the company has commenced an impressive reveal. It is one that is certain to grab industry and customer attention.

The company’s website which has been in a bit of a stealth mode is now fully populated, there is significant news about its capabilities that are being featured at InterOp, and this article resides on the Transforming Network Infrastructure community which is formally launching today.  In fact, it is our hope that you bookmark the community homepage, visit frequently and become an active member of the community by contributing your thoughts. As noted in my welcome article, we are in the midst of a revolution being driven by an increasingly data center-centric world. 

In this new world, as the last of the three pillars of data center modernization, massive storage and computing being the others, network infrastructure virtualization, enabled through Software Defined Networks (SDN), promises even more network efficiency and a dramatic cost reduction in network equipment acquisition and operation. It is an area that has been a laggard compared to storage and computing, but all of that is changing and changing fast.

While we are well into compute virtualization and network virtualization is moving from promise and proof-of-concept into production, the truth is that we are still on the on-ramp of the learning curve as to the innovations and impacts of a future dominated by what are called Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC).  These will be data centers where “E”verything is virtualized with the objective of making data center networking operations and management much simpler, more agile, secure, extensible and highly scalable.

The challenge has been in looking at how to get from here to there and what comes next that will facilitate it. That is where Fiber Mountain comes in.

At the recent ITEXPO Las Vegas, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani had an opportunity to speak with Fiber Mountain CEO M.H.Raza which provides a nice introduction to the company for those who are not aware of them.

The simple and elastic infrastructure

As the company notes, as data centers have grown in size and complexity, there has been a pressing need to simplify operations, and build more intelligence into all layers of the network to make them more manageable under software control. 

 What Fiber Mountain is bringing to the table is: “An elastic infrastructure that provides freedom from rigid architectures, an alphabet soup of protocols and formats, a vendor ecosystem whose very survival depends on vertically integrated solutions and the maintenance of a stranglehold on packet forwarding decisions using an embedded, proprietary control plane. We promote the flexibility of virtualized networks, and their core tenet of pushing intelligence to the network edge. We provide network administrators ultimate control and unparalleled flexibility in how they bring-up, provision, manage and retire data center resources through intelligent and programmable network control points.”

Seeing is believing. Three charts illustrate the Fiber Mountain answer to what comes next in terms of SDDC. It starts as the first graphic shows with the view of the data center network and where connectivity needs to be simplified and virtualized. 

Source: Fiber Mountain

As will be seen below, that core which has been packet is now part of Fiber Mountain’s Glass Core. In fact, it represents what the company believes is going to be the convergence of routing and switching into a very high-speed capability. This will be needed for scaling reasons and for accommodating the massive amounts of increasingly unpredictable traffic flowing inside SDDCs. We all are aware of all of the predictions about how fast data traffic is growing in general, and the bandwidth required as it gets big but is content and context richer. What you may not be aware of is that Cisco Visual Index, which has become somewhat of a Bible on such matters, has consistently said that 70 percent of the growing traffic is inside the data center. That means a lot of cabling and complexity. 

Fiber Mountain is introducing as part of its Glass Core the Alpine Orchestration System to manage the complexity. It is at the core of its DCIM capabilities which along with traditional DCIM for tracking virtual resources, software licenses and other metrics is designed to evolve to include automatic discovery of network devices such as servers, switches, storage, patch panels and cable, and also to be able to automatically and accurately document these devices and cables into cabinets, racks and connectivity diagrams, without human intervention or audit, which will be significant as data centers become more complex. 

While DCIM is designed to document and help plan and manage data center growth, the addition of the SDN part of orchestration helps simplfy the network through vitualization.  As Raza noted in an interview earlier this year with transformingnetworkinfrastructure Group Editorial Director Erik Linask: 

The challenge is that today’s DCIM solutions do not have the intelligence to dynamically associate network devices with their physical location, and consequently lack the ability to associate packet flow metrics with the location of physical assets. Hence, it is difficult to make the leap that DCIM solutions can document network metrics from virtually abstracted layers of a software-defined network when the DCIM solution is not even able to dynamically document the very hardware that is used by the SDN. We are now looking at next generation network-aware DCIM solutions, which will be able to bridge the gap between the physical and the logical, and understand network flows and congestion as it relates to each piece of physical hardware and corresponding physical paths and locations, and be able to dynamically document the changing abstraction layers.

 This can be seen in the second illustration which provides a system overview.

Source: Fiber Mountain

The illustration worth viewing is context for looking at where we are and where Fiber Mountain fits.

The next step in the virtualization path rightfully has to be what Fiber Mountain is calling, “connectivity virtualization.” It may not be the final piece of the puzzle in terms of achieving a totally optimized scalable and affordable SDDC but from both the simplification and manageability perspectives this is more than just an incremental change. It is an enabler of significant transformation.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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