Network Issues in Data Centers

This is one of my favorite posts, disclosing real problems in real-life data centers.

As James Hamilton pointed out, there were many network challenges in data centers. The top one is the over-subscription in traditional data center network, followed by power efficiency and closed engineering model.

James has done a great side-by-side comparison between x86 servers and network equipments. Let me borrow the image here.

This is exactly the vision Pronto, Openflow, and Xorplus are executing.

By leveraging Linux as the operating system on all Pronto platforms, we are working our way to provide an open system software, as James has identified in the third  box.

Openflow and Pica8 Xorplus both provided public API to control the switch chips, and they both provide programming tools for programmers to build applications. With Linux as the system software, we inherit abundant tools from the Linux platform. This addresses the forth box.

For the top 2 boxes, we currently have Broadcom, Fulcrum, and Marvell to provide off-the-shelf and high-performance switch ASIC. Pronto has simplified the platform design by using single ASIC to build a top-of-rack switch. Even though this cannot claim as a standard design, it is at least open enough that can be replicated by other vendors. This should address the top two boxes.

So, what is missing?

There have been questions on the sanity of applying the x86 model on the network equipments.  Well, we DO believe the network equipment can be open and the suppliers, like Pronto, Openflow, and Pica8 can still make comfortable profit once users start to realize the benefit of an open system.

So, if the direction is correct, how come we are not seeing a big paradigm shift yet? Everything takes time. Even though Openflow and Pica8 have built their foundation, it takes time for new software like Openflow and Xorplus to grow mature. We have positioned Pronto as an open platform and would take pride in enabling the innovation in the data center network.


About James Liao
James is a data center architect, focusing on the scalability and operation of data center infrastructure.

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