Isn't it time for a consumable network fabric?

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Empowering data center operators with open network fabric
Data centers have been built around consumable compute and storage resources for decades. However, the network and switches needed to support this were not included. Because of this, hyperscalers ran into scaling limits and, for some time, have been building networks that attempted to meet the demands of both compute and storage. Network equipment vendors have been slow to follow that suit; perhaps because their businesses were built around selling purpose-built hardware.

About the author Erwan James is Principal Solutions Architect and Regional Product Line Manager for Nokia's Global Webscale business.

The time has come for network vendors to shift their thinking though. As data center interconnect and distributed edge clouds become the norm — especially for servicing enterprises that embrace Industry 4.0 — it is time for switches to become more consumable. In other words: to have the ability to adapt to the ever changing needs of the compute environment.

Emerging demands

COVID-19 illustrated that, even with basic IT-based service consumption, network traffic patterns can shift dramatically as a result of sudden large-scale transitions; in this case, toward remote work and an explosion of consumer-led video and gaming services.

However, the network demand patterns for edge cloud computing services will be far more variable with Industry 4.0. And, with the shift to enterprise 5G wireless services, the network will have to adopt cloud-native principles to provide the elastic scalability needed to meet these emerging enterprise demands. Cloud, colocation and interconnection providers will only be able to successfully capture this market if they can — like today's hyperscalers — scale the network the same way they currently manage compute and storage resources.

Ideally, the network will follow many of the same practices established by data centers for other consumables. Network functions and applications should be delivered using distributed microservices on…
Erwan James
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