As modern datacenters increasingly embrace scale-out IT architectures, a number of problems can arise that impact network performance. Oftentimes, these issues extend past networking to negatively impact the performance of storage systems as well. As datacenters evolve, networks may also be required to evolve with changes in equipment, architecture, and protocols to overcome these problems. This paper seeks to shed light on those problems and the associated impact on connected storage systems.
Networking within the datacenter has a constant requirement of high bandwidth and low latency. There are a number of technologies that can be deployed to meet these needs such as Fibre Channel or Infiniband, but increasingly Ethernet is being used. Ethernet is a well-known technology that leverages TCP / IP and can be deployed with commodity switches, often at a lower cost than its competitors. Additionally, Ethernet has been able to provide increasing speeds, with 10GbE, 25GbE, 50GbE, and 100GbE available, without requiring intensive infrastructure changes that may be required by adopting new technologies.
While certainly not the only option, Ethernet has seen, and will continue to see, widespread use for datacenter networks. As the technologies, architectures, and strategies deployed within the datacenter evolve to address new challenges, the underlying Ethernet network must also find ways to adapt.
Traditionally, a datacenter network’s core focus has been to transfer data in and out of the datacenter quickly and efficiently. This traffic pattern of data moving to and from the datacenter is known as North-South traffic and for a long time has comprised the majority of a network’s traffic. The other type of network traffic, known as East-West traffic, involves data movement within the datacenter. This East-West traffic flow comes from servers and storage systems communicating amongst themselves – a traffic pattern that traditionally takes a backseat to serving the client facing North-South traffic.
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