The recent ONS2015 Keynote from Google's Amin Vahdat describes how Google builds large scale software defined data centers. The presentation is well worth watching in its entirety since Google has a long history of advancing distributed computing with technologies that have later become mainstream.
This slide shows the the large pools of storage and compute connected by the data center network that are used to deliver data center services. Amin states that the dominant costs are compute and storage and that the network can be relatively inexpensive.
In Overall Data Center Costs James Hamilton breaks down the monthly costs of running a data center and puts the cost of network equipment at 8% of the overall cost.However, Amin goes on to explain why networking has a disproportionate role in the overall value delivered by the data center.
- Leaf and Spine (Clos) topology
- Merchant silicon based switches (white box / brite box / bare metal)
- Centralized control (SDN)
Google is not alone in leading this trend. Facebook has generated significant support for the Open Compute Project (OCP), which publishes open source designs data center equipment, including merchant silicon based leaf and spine switches. A key OCP project is the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), which allows third party software to be installed on the network equipment. ONIE separates hardware from software and has spawned a number of innovative networking software companies, including: Cumulus Networks, Big Switch Networks, Pica8, Pluribus Networks. Open network hardware and the related ecosystem of software is entering the mainstream as leading vendors such as Dell and HP deliver open networking hardware, software and support to enterprise customers.
John mentions the CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter) project which proposes an architecture very similar to Google's, consisting of a leaf and spine network built using open merchant silicon based hardware connecting commodity servers and storage. A prototype of the CORD leaf and spine network was shown as part of the ONS2015 Solutions Showcase.
|ONS2015 Solutions Showcase: Open-source spine-leaf Fabric|
Getting back to the Fortune article, it is clear that the move to open commodity network, server and storage hardware shifts value from hardware to the software solutions that optimize performance. The network in particular is a critical resource that constrains overall performance and network optimization solutions can provide disproportionate benefits by eliminating bottlenecks that constrain compute and storage and limit the value delivered by the data center.