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The data center fabric checklist you should know

Jim Duffy | July 16, 2013
Like anything in IT, there are several considerations to mull over before employing fabric technology to converge data center operations.

Storage is directly cabled into the hypercube via the SCSI RDMA Protocol with "dual rails" configured for failover, Quick says.

The only "gotchas" during implementation were again, the lack of practical experience or best practices' with Infiniband in the enterprise.

"Reference topologies tend to reference everything in the world except Infiniband," Quick says. "There's never a place where it's the only thing around."

References such as white papers and vendor professional services consultants were not very convincing for Eze Software, a Juniper QFabric M shop with data centers that support a SaaS offering for financial traders. Eze was sold on QFabric and its single-tier/one hop networking proposition after extensive testing.

"You read the white paper, professional services come in here and you're still skeptical," says Bill Taney, vice president of network engineering and operations for Eze Software. "And when you test the implementation like we did and see it failover seamlessly, it's pretty impressive."

Eze deployed QFabric M nodes, interconnects and directors in March in two primary data centers that were relocated from previous facilities and redesigned from the ground up greenfields. Four QFabric M interconnects form the 150G backbone core.

The fabric supports 400 mostly physical servers and a storage server. Servers are connected to multiple QFabric nodes over Link Aggregation Groups.

Eze engaged Juniper professional services and performed extensive failover testing to ensure the QFabric single-tier/one hop topology worked as advertised. It did, Taney reports.

"It rolled out a lot easier than I thought it would," he says. "It was a fairly straightforward implementation. It just failed over very, very well."  

Eze is now waiting for Juniper to add Virtual Chassis capabilities to its QFabric QFX top-of-rack switches, which would essentially allow users to configure a fabric with the QFabric interconnects.

"If you can get QFabric in a smaller deployment, without the interconnect... that would certainly be a solution I'd consider for our small data centers," he says.

Another fabric deployment for a SaaS offering belongs to NPD Group, a Long Island-based market research firm. In January, NPD implemented HP's Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF) technology across a 40 switch environment in a greenfield data center anchored by HP 5900 switches in the 10G core.

IRF was deployed more to converge management than it was to converge storage. NPD is running data and storage on two separate Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks, though it is currently evaluating HP's Fibre Channel-over-Ethernet offerings.

But NPD's big challenge now is handing big data.

"(IRF is) really for ease of management, lower total cost of ownership," says Gabe Abreu, senior vice president, Global Enterprise Systems at NPD. "Having the capability to manage connections virtually rather than physically making connections is just more appealing. Our biggest issue is getting the most throughput and processing power."NPD's new data center, located about 80 miles from New York City, connects up to 5,000 devices, including servers, storage and networking nodes. While IRF virtualizes connection management, HP's IMC management system provides a single-pane-of-glass monitoring capability for the IRF fabric, Abreu says.

NPD has another legacy data center that runs OSPF as its unifying "fabric." The company plans to transition that to IRF on 2015, Abreu says.


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