Ethernet: the next generation

Alain Valluy of Brocade discusses the importance of Ethernet Fabrics and why the channel needs to get to grips with this essential development in data centre technology

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Ethernet: the next generation Ethernet has evolved and channel players need to stay abreast of developments, says Valluy.
By  Alain Valluy Published  April 20, 2011

Alain Valluy director of EMEA channel, Brocade discusses the importance of Ethernet Fabrics and why the channel needs to get to grips with this essential development in data centre technology.

Evolution, as Darwin discovered, is based on the survival of the fittest. This is just as true in the technology environment as it is in the real one. With Ethernet Fabrics the next stage in networking evolution has arrived.

Over the decades, Ethernet has continuously evolved as new types of networking architectures have emerged. Today, data centre networks carry traffic for a diverse set of applications - each with different traffic patterns and service requirements. This diverse traffic places extraordinarily high demands on the network, which has in turn driven the next evolutionary step in Ethernet networks - the Ethernet Fabric.

It was in fact in 1976, when Robert Metcalfe and David Boggs published their paper ‘Ethernet - Distributed Packet Switching For Local Computer Networks’, that Ethernet was born. During the 80s, Ethernet’s popularity grew and its uptake mirrored the growth of the burgeoning global IT sector as a whole. With the advances of the internet came new challenges; challenges in IT storage and bandwidth arose with the ever-increasing development and consumption of information at both public and corporate levels.

These issues remained well into the 21st Century, and with the rapid expansion of the IT industry into new areas, such as virtual machines and cloud computing, traditional Ethernet’s limitations (such as its loss-y nature) proved problematic. In response Ethernet evolved into Ethernet Fabric, a solution purpose-built for the new virtualised, cloud-optimised data centres, and for the increasingly mobile and data fragmented world of 2011 and well beyond.

Ethernet Fabrics provide flatter networks, eliminating manual configuration while providing non-disruptive, scalable bandwidth within the fabric. They also make the convergence of SAN and LAN a reality, having removed the many barriers to such an approach to network design. In essence, Ethernet Fabrics provide higher levels of performance, utilization, availability, and simplicity.

For the channel this evolution represents a revolution – and like Ethernet they must evolve to respond to today’s infrastructure and customer demands. Ethernet Fabrics mean the network is an enabler rather than a physical structure, and businesses and organisations will look to providers who can deliver the expertise and support they require to evolve to compete. What the channel needs to do to be ahead of the pack is to develop specialisations in this technology by acquiring certifications offered by market-leading vendors. These courses train and educate partners on a broad set of Ethernet fabric related topics including everything from theory and concept through to installation, configuration and troubleshooting.

Going one step further, the channel should look at ‘Virtualised Fabric’ technology which presents a broader data centre opportunity. Specialisation in this is an opportunity to ‘tie it all together,’ bringing together network infrastructure (LAN and SAN) with converged architecture to create a more complete data centre practice to offer to customers.

Those who do not learn the lessons of history should consider the fate of the dinosaurs.

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