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Multisite Fabrics: Distance Does Not Have to Be a Challenge

The whole topic of Data Center Interconnects tends to attract strong supporters and strong opponents at the same time

Not entirely unexpected, the optical capabilities in our switch have provoked questions from customers and potential customers on whether the Plexxi solution could be used to create campus, metro or even long distance multi site fabrics. The answer to that question is a resounding yes, and with the newly introduced switch 2 platform, some of the connectivity options added to that platform make it extremely flexible to do just that.

The whole topic of Data Center Interconnects tends to attract strong supporters and strong opponents at the same time. In a world without constraints, the ability to tie public or private clouds together across distance without losing any of the L2 or L3 capabilities and freedom is very attractive. Virtualized platforms love networks that provide seamless L2 and L3 connectivity from anywhere to anywhere. Virtual machines can be moved around at will without much worry about VLAN and subnet boundaries. The reality of course is that this is not necessarily easy to create or maintain.

When you add Metro or Wide area connectivity into the mix, it gets even tougher. Connectivity and bandwidth is typically more constraint due to cost or simply availability. Few point to point circuits are used to connect data centers together using many different underlying technologies. Stretching VLANs across this infrastructure is often avoided in favor of IP routed point to point connections for fear of large broadcast domains, loops and a general lack of control how traffic would flow across multiple parallel connections between multiple data centers.

What you lose with cross data center connectivity done this way is not only the ability to (even with constraints) to stretch a VLAN across data centers, but also the ability to create a true fabric rather than two separate fabrics that are connected with IP and regular routing protocols. Of course one of the reasons overlay networks have been created is to remove this L2 end to end requirement, but the majority of data centers are not using overlay technologies today, and in the future, even an overlay network requires a well functioning fabric to perform at its best, not just two islands glued together with a few 10 or 10GbE point to point routed connections.

The Plexxi solution provides several key functions to enable a true multisite fabric. Our standard medium range WDM optics allow for campus and metro like distance between switches without requiring additional optical gear for mid range transport. It requires some dark fiber between locations, but bringing 80 or 120 or even 240Gbit/sec between sites requires very little engineering and even less complexity, with all the goodness of the dynamic fabric Plexxi is known for.

Additional optical components and the introduction of Flexx ports on our switch 2 platform allow the redirection of WDM waves to front panel SFP+ ports, where they can be turned into 80km DWDM waves for longer distances, or matched up to a managed or alien wave optical transport service. In the same way as above, creating that same massive amount of bandwidth between sites. And not just as point to point links, but as individual 10GbE connections that become part of the Plexxi fabric mesh.

Extending a public or private cloud between multiple sites is not that scary. It does not all have to be a flat L2 network. It can be routed where needed, switched where needed. Routing is done on ingress to the fabric, so packets don’t travel between sites just to arrive back at the originating site. You still get the value of a very high bandwidth dynamic fabric built on top of a direct optical mesh. And this fabric can be built in support of a routed network that sits on top, a transport for a metro ethernet like solution, or an extension of an existing Plexxi public or private cloud solution.

[today's fun fact: 4.8 billion people own mobile phones whereas only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush.]

The post Multisite Fabrics: Distance does not have to be a challenge appeared first on Plexxi.

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More Stories By Marten Terpstra

Marten Terpstra is a Product Management Director at Plexxi Inc. Marten has extensive knowledge of the architecture, design, deployment and management of enterprise and carrier networks.