There’s a storm coming – a data storm

Is your WAN ready for 100 Gigabit Ethernet? Even if it won’t actually have to carry 100Gbit/s — which is probably just as well, given the potential cost of doing that — there is a good chance that it will be interconnecting 100Gig networks within the next few years.

There are a lot of reasons in today’s data centers why the need for network bandwidth keeps climbing: server virtualization, the cloud, big data, storage networking, and more use of high-performance computing (HPC) among them. What should be really worrying for IT and network admins, though, is that all of these are hitting at the same time.

Some are already calling it a “perfect storm” — one of those disastrous situations named after the especially violent storms that result from rare combinations of adverse meteorological factors. That might well be post-Sandy sensationalism, of course, but the warning is still a valid one.

It explains why, in a recent survey by network adapter manufacturer Emulex, more than half of the IT admins queried (52 percent) said that their need for network I/O is increasing by at least 60 percent a year.  It truly is an astonishing growth rate — it represents a more than ten-fold bandwidth increase in just five years.

So perhaps it should not be a surprise to learn from the same survey that a similar number (54 percent) said that they expect to have deployed 100Gig Ethernet in their data center networks by 2016. That’s up from just 40 per cent who said they already have 10Gig Ethernet in place.

Speaking in a session at SNW Europe in Frankfurt last month, Cisco distinguished engineer Gilles Chekroun said 10Gig Ethernet is becoming the standard for server connectivity. He noted that, as well as providing a solid foundation for storage networking, it is also essential if you want to do either HPC over Ethernet or high-density virtualization, which he defined as more than 25 virtual machines per host.

Chekroun even cited per-port costs of $75 for Gigabit and $500 for 10Gig, pointing out that this meant 10Gig is already cheaper per Gigabit of network capacity.

Of course, if you have 10Gig servers, “You need bigger uplinks — that means 40Gig and 100Gig Ethernet, so this is paving the way for 40Gig aggregation and 100Gig at the core,” he said, adding that, “forecasters expect significant edge deployment of 40Gig in 2015 to 2016.”

And if there are 100Gig networks in the data centers — and perhaps 40Gig or even 100Gig upgrades for many of the backbone sections outside the data center — that is also going to mean a lot more data traversing the WAN.

Fortunately, if this storm hits, then unlike Sandy it is not likely to smash up your infrastructure and leave you with billions in clean-up costs. But unfortunately, once it starts it is not going to blow out either. Are you ready?

Image credit: poorboy1225 (flickr)

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Bryan Betts