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Cloud giants turn to SDN as traditional networks lag behind

26/06/2015 by


Traditional networking gear just can’t keep up with the demands of today’s modern data center. At least that was the message delivered from executives of both Google and Microsoft at this week’s Open Network Summit.

The problem is that the traditional network switches and controllers built by companies like Cisco Systems Inc. just don’t have the ability to scale to meet the needs of cloud vendors who operate multiple sprawling data centers across the world. In both cases, Google and Microsoft have had to build their own software-defined networks instead, and in the former’s case, it’s been doing so for the last ten years.

Google provided some details about its project on Wednesday at the Open Network Summit and in a blog post. Its current network, which powers all of the company’s data centers, has a capacity of 1.13 petabits a second – a whole 100 times faster than the first data center network it built for itself a decade ago. Google’s network follows a hierarchical design, with three tiers of switches controlled by commodity chips, which are themselves controlled by software that treats all the switches as one.

Google built its own networks because conventional routers and switches were no longer able to keep up with the company’s needs, said Amin Vahdat, Google Fellow and networking technical lead.

“The amount of bandwidth that we have to deliver to our servers is outpacing even Moore’s Law,” Vahdat said. And in future it will need even more bandwidth to take advantage of faster storage technologies like Flash

“We could not buy, for any price, a data-center network that would meet the requirements of our distributed systems,” Vahdat said. That forced Google to build its own software-defined networks with generic hardware and merchant silicon, the same chips that white-box manufacturers use. Google owns the software stack that controls everything, but it works using the open-source OpenFlow protocol. The company is now onto its fifth-generation homegrown network which it calls Jupiter, using 40 gigabit ethernet connections and three tiers of top-of-rack, aggregation and spine switches.

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