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Alain Valluy, Brocade

by Stuart Wilson, Monday 14 March 2011

Alain Valluy, EMEA channel director at Brocade, shares his views on the next stage of the networking revolution: ethernet fabrics.

"Evolution, as Darwin discovered, is based on the survival of the fittest. This is just as true in the technology environment as it is in the real one. With ethernet fabrics the next stage in networking evolution has arrived.

Over the decades, ethernet has continuously evolved as new types of networking architectures have emerged. Today, data centre networks carry traffic for a diverse set of applications - each with different traffic patterns and service requirements. This diverse traffic places extraordinarily high demands on the network, which has is turn driven the next evolutionary step in ethernet networks - the ethernet fabric.

It was in fact in 1976, when Metcalfe and David Boggs published their title paper ethernet - distributed packet switching for local computer networks, that ethernet was born. During the 1980s, ethernet’s popularity grew and its uptake mirrored the growth of the burgeoning global IT sector as a whole. With the advances of the Internet came new challenges; challenges in IT storage and bandwidth arose with the ever-increasing development and consumption of information at both public and corporate levels.

These issues remained well into the 21st century, and with the rapid expansion of the IT industry into new areas, such as virtual machines and cloud computing, traditional ethernet’s limitations (such as its loss-y nature) proved problematic. In response ethernet evolved into ethernet fabric, a solution purpose-built for the new virtualised, cloud-optimised data centres... and for the increasingly mobile and data fragmented world of 2011 and well beyond.

Ethernet fabrics provide flatter networks, eliminating manual configuration while providing non-disruptive, scalable bandwidth within the fabric. They also make the convergence of SAN and LAN a reality, having removed the many barriers to such an approach to network design. In essence, ethernet fabrics provide higher levels of performance, utilisation, availability, and simplicity.

For the channel this evolution represents a revolution – and like ethernet they must evolve to respond to today’s infrastructure and customer demands. Ethernet fabrics mean the network is an enabler rather than a physical structure, and businesses and organisations will look to providers who can deliver the expertise and support they require to evolve to compete. Those who do not learn the lessons of history should consider the fate of the dinosaurs."

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December, 2020

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