Boosting Business Agility, Eliminating Bottlenecks with 25GbE

Networks are the modern data center’s foundation. Rapid information growth and evolving applications require real-time responses. This has led businesses of all sizes to build up their corporate data centers by including a growing number of modern compute and storage platforms. These modern data centers require high-performance interconnections between all of the various server and storage devices via a high-speed information superhighway, both within the rack and between the racks.

Unfortunately, a bottleneck exists within the data center network infrastructure that prohibits organizations from reaching optimum application performance. That bottleneck is the 10GbE I/O connection from the server/storage devices to the top-of-rack (ToR) Ethernet switch (See Figure 1).

This problem is exacerbated when there is an abundance of virtualization and cloud-based traffic occurring in real time. The rapid growth of server virtualization introduced significantly more east-west Virtual Machine (VM) network traffic between servers and the chassis to accommodate the real-time mapping of resources and led to a migration to 10GbE connections.

However, along with increased use of server virtualization, many organizations are also implementing multi-processor servers, all-flash storage systems and cloud-based technologies that require even higher-speed I/O communications. These transformations are described in the IDC study “Accelerate Business Agility with Faster Server Refresh Cycles,” where businesses must keep infrastructures up to date in order to support the scale and complexity of a changing application landscape. So, now as companies consider and plan their server refreshes as part of IT Transformation, they need to consider upgrading their network – by upgrading to 25GbE.

Illustration: 10GbE In-rack connectivity

Figure 1 – 10GbE In-rack connectivity

Based on the projected rapid growth of 25GbE adoption in a 2017 Ethernet Switch market update by the Dell’Oro group, server and storage vendors are now shipping 25GbE I/O on their platforms (See Figure 2). These new 25GbE I/Os utilize more efficient chip technology and provide 2.5x the bandwidth over existing 10GbE connections. That’s like taking an existing 4-lane highway and expanding it to a 10-lane highway.

There are also some added benefits when using 25GbE including a more efficient use of valuable switching ASIC I/Os (1 instead of 4 used by 10GbE and 40GbE) and the ability not having to replace existing 10GbE fiber optic cabling when upgrading to 25GbE. This expanded 25GbE connectivity will greatly enhance traffic flows between devices in the rack as well as enhance traffic up into the data center fabric and to other racks connected to the fabric.

graph: Data Center switching speeds (Dell-Oro Group 2017)

Figure 2 – Data Center switching speeds (Dell-Oro Group 2017)

There are a number of switch vendors in the market, including Dell EMC, who are shipping 25GbE switches to ensure their servers are operating at peak performance and achieve transformational SLAs. These new switches offer ports that can provide native 25GbE connections as well as multi-rate speeds that include 10/25/50/100GbE connections. The best news is that both enhancements in 25GbE chip technology and higher levels of customer demand are helping to bring the cost of 25GbE technology to almost the same price of existing 10GbE platforms.

When going through a server refresh campaign within the data center, it now makes sense to take a closer look at incorporating 25GbE I/Os in those new servers. Also coordinate with the networking team to take a look at the ToR Ethernet switches within the racks and see if they can efficiently handle 25GbE switching connectivity within the rack. If not, it might be a good time to investigate the implementation of a new generation of 25GbE Ethernet switches that support IT Transformation initiatives and additional OPEX savings by using less power, requiring less cooling and taking up less space as compared to existing switches in the rack.

When you’re making the switch over, remember that not all infrastructure is the same. It must be modernized. You don’t have to use the same vendor you’ve always used. In fact, being vendor indifferent is preferred for modern networking. Rather than just upgrading to yet another proprietary switching solution, take the time to investigate Dell EMC 25GbE open networking solutions that can provide you with open, standards-based technology disaggregation that embraces choice, flexibility and innovation within the network infrastructure. For example, when adopting an open networking solution with a choice of operating system (OS) software running on the switch hardware, Linux-savvy server administrators can take advantage of a Linux-based OS running on their switches and adopt a more common interface across both server and networking resources (see Figure 3). They will also be able to leverage the large talent pool available in Linux and open source standards-based communities for data center automation and orchestration tools that help accelerate rapid innovation and organizational agility.

Illustration: Empowering Linux in the data center with 25GbE Open Networking

Figure 3 – Empowering Linux in the data center with 25GbE Open Networking

As applications and their respective server platforms continue to evolve, adoption of 25GbE into the data center networking infrastructure is a necessity for all organizations. Including a 25GbE upgrade to the network when going through a server refresh ensures the elimination of bottlenecks that rob modern infrastructures of their performance and agility gains. Let Dell EMC help transform your IT with modern data center 25GbE solutions.

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Tom Burns

About the Author: Tom Burns