2016 Trends in Data Center Networking
Customer investment in the data center is booming, and vendors are scrambling to keep up. There are more of them, closer together, and connected in increasingly complicated ways. As the overall trend in the data center is upward, that goes double for expansion of networking and communications.
A Supply-Side View of Network Evolution
Service providers are continuing to build out data centers at a breakneck speed. New data centers are being commissioned globally, in both developed and developing countries, and cloud providers are continuing to add web-scale data centers to their global footprint. This construction process involves billions of dollars of capex, plus millions of square feet of floor space, and tens of millions of servers in towering racks.
The increase in construction is driving an increase in connectivity. Each of those servers are interconnected with tens of thousands of optical transceivers. Each data center isn't just connected to the internet, but also to a network of other provider-owned data centers.
These intra-data-center connections are already creating communications traffic on the terabit scale. Assuming that investment continues at its present rate, we'll be soon be seeing traffic on the order of petabits per day.
What's more, this increase in construction is driving an increase in innovation. While data centers are springing up across the face of the globe, what's inside them is changing almost as quickly.
Drastic Changes in Servers and Data Center Networking
End users may not notice anything except an improvement in the quality of their Netflix, but under the surface, inside the data center, they're witnessing the effects of a major technological transition.
For example, the current standard for server ports is 10G Ethernet. Per our recent webinar with Ovum, we're about to see a broad transition to 25G Ethernet, as well as a move towards increasing rack density. From current levels, we're expecting to see an increase to a staggering 192 servers per rack, representing a sixfold increase. Lastly, intraswitch fabric length is expected to reach 100G in the very near future. These changes are expected to be seen mostly in green-field data centers at first, but they will then propagate down to pre-existing buildings.
With the number of new data centers increasing, we're also seeing changes on a global, regional, and metro level. Globally, this has resulted in a change within optical networks. DCI networks are evolving, adding more diverse paths even between continents, and reinforcing connections between pre-existing data centers.
On that national/regional level, we used to see service providers using a small cluster of data centers in the middle of a region, which was supposed to provide coverage for an entire area. This has changed, with providers now utilizing data centers on the perimeter of each region. With this change comes an entire new lexicon for service providers, incorporating terminology such as "edge nodes" and "edge cache data centers." These edge cache nodes will reduce latency, and importantly, they aren't necessarily wholly owned by a service provider. Service providers are much more likely to lease pre-existing data centers to provide service on their regional edges.
Lastly, at the metro level (where we are seeing a lot of these edge cache nodes pop up) you'll find services providers expanding from one to several data centers per metro. As with the global and regional examples, we are continuing to see reinforcement and ramification of the connections between metro-level data centers, to the extent where we are witnessing the creation of a true mesh network. As this trend continues, we're likely to see petabytes of data crossing within metro areas.
A Rising Tide Floats the DCI Boat
The Wave-Division Multiplexing (WDM) market has now exceeded $10 billion, and one-third of that market is comprised of DCI providers. Ovum now predicts an optical DCI growth rate of 10% per year.
While it seems like DCI manufacturers are in the money at the moment, they should still be cautious of upsets. For example, we're now seeing DCI equipment that surpasses 100G and goes up to 400G, 1T is not far behind. With such a large increase in bandwidth, there's a commensurate increase in footprint and power consumption. Companies that can create efficiencies in these areas may quickly earn dividends, upsetting their well-established rivals. This was proven when Microsoft threw Infinera and Ciena under the bus in favor of Inphi's built-in short-range DCI modules.
Microsoft has the power to move entire markets with a single offhand comment, because it's now one of the largest cloud service providers on the planet. The software giant is growing its cloud division at over 50% per year, with AWS not far behind. The total market revenue is now expected to grow past $200 billion, and increased cloud adoption is poised to drive even more money into data center and cloud-adjacent businesses.
ECI’s ElastiCLOUD provides advanced cloud networking solutions to data center operators, content service providers, cloud service providers and communications service providers worldwide. Download our latest application note: Dynamic Cloud Connect which brings flexibility to cloud connectivity.
Topics: Cloud Networking