A Tale of Two Data Center Fabrics

Michael Vizard

There are profound changes taking place in the data centerthat promise to alter the balance of vendor power as we know it today. At the heart of those changes are a set of technologies that allow IT organizations to create fabrics that unify the management of networks, systems and storage.

Cisco has been a primary driver of this concept and today the company extended its Nexus switch offerings in this area while also announcing its support for the emerging 802.11 Qbh port extender standard.

The 802.11 Qbh port extender standard is important because it provides a core element of a larger framework that will be needed to build heterogeneous data center fabrics.

But the question that remains unanswered is how the development of data center fabrics might further drive industry consolidation. In fact, there seems to be two distinct reactions to the advent of data center fabrics. Companies in the cloud, ranging from infrastructure service providers to Web 2.0 stalwarts such as Facebook and Google seem to be pretty keen on the need for open standards to preserve choice and competition.

But within many traditional enterprises, in many cases things are heading in the opposite direction. Many of them are at the very least intrigued by Cisco's efforts to unify the IT infrastructure landscape, regardless of any proprietary reservations. What's driving this is that many of them no longer want to be in the systems integration business. They want a set of turnkey systems that they can easily deploy and manage. While Cisco supports the open standards process, Omar Sultan, senior manager for Cisco's data center solutions, notes that customers have pressing problems today that need to be addressed by IT innovation.

Obviously, there are two world views starting to come into sharp relief among customers. Which one of these views will ultimately dominate is unclear. Open systems provide a lot of pricing leverage over the long haul, but the cost of acquitting technology is nothing compared to the cost of managing it. Of course, open systems that are easy to manage are not mutually exclusive concepts. But in terms of bringing those two concepts together in a meaningful way, the IT industry at the moment is lagging woefully behind.

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