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Is Data Center Fabric Just Hype?

June 1, 2011 - 0 Comments

Over the last few days, I’ve been listening to some interesting conversations on the topic of “fabric” in the data center.  To be honest, one of the common questions I get is if there is anything materially different about “Fabric” (our Data Center Fabric or anyone else’s), or is it merely the latest buzzword from bored marketing geeks.  From what I have seen, many of the companies throwing around the term “fabric” are referring only to transport and are usually tying it to a specific product or technology.  On these two points, Cisco’s view of fabric markedly differs.

A while ago, John McCool posted a blog entry that looked at our definition of fabric for the data center.  As you can see, it is built around a specific set of capabilities and benefits as opposed to a particular product, technology or topology.  Data centers are all unique with different priorities and requirements and being prescriptive about a particular technology is not very practical.  Instead, Cisco’s approach to DC Fabric establishes a framework to guide customers in best meeting their needs.  Cisco Data Center Fabric is built from three architectural pillars or building blocks within our DCBA Framework: Unified Fabric, Unified Network Services, and Unified Computing.  Each pillar represents a broad and rich set of capabilities that customers can draw from to meet their data center requirements.

The other key point is that a true data center fabric is about more than just transport—otherwise it just becomes a fancy word for “network”. 🙂 When Cisco first got into the storage networking business a few years ago, we took storage services like encryption or traffic routing, which were traditionally handled by stand-alone devices, and embedded them into the storage network fabric.  This unique approach made these services ubiquitous and consistently available in a scalable manner.   This approach worked so well, our competitors attempted to follow suit.  So, with the Data Center Fabric, we take this concept and extend it.  Because our Data Center Fabric is built from more than just network elements, it is more than just about providing transport.  Cisco embeds features to support convergence, VM-networking, security and L4-7 capabilities and fabric computing. Definitely more than just transport and marketing fluff.

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