Data center fabrics catching on, slowly

Early adopters say the expense and time spent to revamp a data center's switching gear are well worth it; benefits include killer bandwidth and more flexibility

"I was afraid at first because ... I didn't know much about InfiniBand," he acknowledges, and most enterprise architectures run on Fibre Channel and Ethernet. "We brought [I/O Director] out here and did a bake-off with Cisco's [Unified Data Center]. It whooped their butt. It was way less cost, way faster, it was simple and easy to use and Xsigo's support has been fabulous," he says.

Previously, big database jobs would take 12 hours, Shipley says. Since the deployment of I/O Director, those same jobs run in less than three hours. Migrating a virtual machine from one host to another now takes seconds, as opposed to minutes, he says.

He says he was initially concerned that because Xsigo is a much smaller vendor, it might not be around over the long term. But, says Shipley, "we found out VMware uses these guys."

"What Xsigo is saying is, instead of having to use Ethernet and Fibre Channel, you can take all those out and put [their product] in and it creates a fabric," explains Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "They're right, but when you're talking about data center networking and data center fabrics, Xsigo is helping to create two tiers. But the Junipers and Ciscos and Brocades are trying to create that flat fabric."

InfiniBand is a great protocol, Laliberte adds, but cautions that it's not necessarily becoming more widely used. "It's still primarily in the realm of supercomputing sites that need ultra-fast computing."

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor. She can be reached at

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This story, "Data center fabrics catching on, slowly" was originally published by Computerworld.

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