RESEARCH NOTE: Software Defined Networking and Emerging Server Form Factors

Does the answer to network complexity live in network virtualization or rethinking the server chassis?

Virtualization on standardized hardware is a key IT trend that began in the late 1990’s with the consolidation and virtualization of storage using SAN and NAS technology.  Costs plummeted, customers had greater control and deploying/ reprovisioning became a more seamless and agile process.  Then in the early 2000’s, compute became virtualized on x86 platforms, bringing those same benefits to the processing front.  Today, the final step of virtualization – network virtualization – is in vogue but as this technology comes into prime time, there may be differences in how it is deployed and how quickly customers move to it. The intersection of network virtualization with changing server form factors, most notably in the largest cloud customers, may present some interesting challenges. 

Table of Contents

  • Networking Is at the Breaking Point
  • Server Sprawl is Causing Many of the Problems
  • Defining the Server (Server, Chassis)
  • Server-Based Solutions (Blade Servers, Hyper-Scale Servers, Disaggregated Racks)
  • Networking-Based Solutions
  • Management
  • Bandwidth at the Server and Chassis Level
  • Bottom Line
  • Important Information About This paper

Illustrations, Photos and Charts

  • Illustration: Rack, blade, hyperscale server
  • Photo: Dell rack mount server, IBM blade chassis, HP hyperscale chassis
  • Illustration: Network traffic through blade
  • Illustration: Network traffic through hyper-scale micro-server
  • Illustration: Network traffic through 42U disaggregated rack
  • Illustration: Network management in Typical Environment
  • Illustration: Network management with SDN
  • Illustration: Network management with SDN + Aggregation
  • Chart: Chassis and Bandwidth

You can download this paper here.