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September 09, 2008


Bill Bonin

It gets worse. With enterprise networks it's always important to differentiate between LAN and WAN, because WANs typically require resources provided by third parties. Let's assume you want to synchronously, remotely replicate a terabyte of production data. Obviously this requires creating a WAN on a leased line. If the WAN isn't implimented perfectly, end user access to data can be impacted pretty severely. So the owner of the WAN connection is;

A) The storage guys because it's their job to protect critical data and to provide access to data. They can't guaranty either if they don't control the connection.
B) The network guys because it's their job to contract with third parties to provision lines and also to insure that they deliver a guaranteed quality of service to their users (in this case, the storage guys).

Stuart Miniman

Great post - a couple of additional considerations:
1) Very few customers have 10Gb Ethernet today other than possibly at the backbone or a backup application. For converged fabric success, this transition needs to happen without disrupting the management processes (let's walk before we run).
2) The enhancements to Ethernet (I like "Lossless Ethernet" as a generic term) will all be new to network guys and will being dictated by the storage guys - so we'll need to get past the "silo" mentality for planning and maintenance even if each administrator has their own access and tools.
3) A shared environment will have security implications that today each group (networking, server, and storage) deals with individually.

The FCoE initiative shows great promise for reaching a converged fabric, but does not address WAN/LAN as Bill points out or any of the ultra-low latency (RDMA) needs where InfiniBand is used today.

marc farley

Nice post, Chuck. The arguments that David Isenberg made in his article "The Rise of the Stupid Network" (May 1997) still hold today. One of the tenets of the stupid network is "where transport is guided by the needs of the data, not the design assumptions of the network" - in other words, the "network tail" doesn't wag the "data dog".

Jason Nash

Excellent post Chuck. This is going to be an interesting time in many data centers. At a previous position I ran a proof of concept that tested VMware on a consolidated Infiniband fabric. The results showed there is great opportunity in a solution like this. Much faster I/O without the complex configuration and design of current aggregation methods.

So far the integration of storage and networking has been messy at best. The network teams have had to engineer their way around inherit weaknesses in Ethernet to get the I/O that some applications require. I know in my last organization, a large financial institution, they still do not offer iSCSI in the data centers. The teams just don't work well together.

Your point about managing this new fabric is also very relevant. The biggest hesitation I've seen from the network side of the house to integrate in to a new fabric is the lack of true management and monitoring. They still fight to properly manage the data network and now have to almost start from scratch on these new consolidated fabrics.


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Chuck Hollis

  • Chuck Hollis
    SVP, Oracle Converged Infrastructure Systems

    Chuck now works for Oracle, and is now deeply embroiled in IT infrastructure.

    Previously, he was with VMware for 2 years, and EMC for 18 years before that, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Vero Beach, FL with his wife and four dogs when he's not traveling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not ever buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.

    Note: these are my personal views, and aren't reviewed or approved by my employer.
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