There's a debate in network circles these days about the future of Ethernet switches that is roughly equivalent to the argument between VHS and Betamax that took place when video cassette recorders first came to market.
On the one side is a group of networking vendors that support an emerging IEEE 802.1aq Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) approach, while another group supports an equally emerging Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) approach that is backed by Cisco, Juniper Networks and Brocade.
Most recently, the backers of SPB, which include Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Huawei, Solana Networks and Spirent Communications, got together to demonstrate interoperability between next-generation networking gear that supports SPB. According to Roger Lapuh, a product line manager for Avaya, SPB represents a more natural extension of existing switch technology in contrast to TRILL-based network gear that would change the way networks are fundamentally deployed and managed.
Both SPB and TRILL are trying to address the need to replace the archaic spanning tree protocol. Both approaches make it possible to put more intelligence in the network layer. That's critical because we need the ability to track virtual machines and application workloads across the network. Once we have that capability, we can then more easily manage applications and their associated IT infrastructure as a single logical entity.
It's unclear which of these standards will ultimately prevail. It may be that both approaches will eventually be adopted under some common architecture. Whatever happens, there needs to be a resolution of the debate sooner than later because as each new virtual machine proliferates across the network, our ability to effectively manage the network deteriorates that much more, which at the rate we're on, should become a full-blown crisis sometime next year.