Wire Once While Staying Flexible

When companies plan their data center infrastructure, there is always uncertainty. When servers, storage and networks are deployed, there is usually a lot of guessing around the memory, bandwidth and storage required.  The growth and changes in an environment are also very difficult to predict and manage.  Host adapters – including NICs (Ethernet), HBAs (FC), HCA (InfiniBand) and CNAs (FCoE) – and the appropriate cabling is a piece of the infrastructure that can see a lot of variability.  Historically, each deployment gets the type and number of adapters that are believed to be necessary for a deployment.  The initial cost of the adapters and cables must be justified.  Separate adapters are often required for each application according to management or security best practices.  As the environment changes, new adapters and cables are added.  The problem with this seemingly flexible environment is that adding/changing adapters and moving cabling is a very manual and time consuming process.

What is Wire Once

Wire Once means that every server gets a standard configuration with a pre-defined type and number of adapters and cables.  Building an environment on 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) can provide the bandwidth needed for all applications.  A pair of dual-port adapters is going to provide a good standard for most environments.  Ethernet has been slowly assimilating many different traffic types including telecom (VoIP and expansion in MAN/WAN solutions) and storage (NFS, iSCSI and now FCoE) and with 10GbE, we now have an inflection point where Wire Once can be feasible.  Customers now have a number of options for their 10GbE solutions including embedded solutions (LOMs), NICs and CNAs from both the traditional networking companies (Intel and Broadcom) and the storage industry (Brocade, Emulex and QLogic).

Staying Flexible

How do customers wire once, never touch the configuration and still have a flexible environment?  The answer is VIRTUALIZATION.  Mobility of applications using vMotion is a reality (if you have any doubts, check out Scott Lowe’s blog post – I’ve been working with customers using VMotion since 2003) – administrators are freeing their applications from their physical boxes so that they can grow, move and change.  One of the things that you don’t want to worry about when moving between servers is whether or not the server has enough connectivity to the network and storage.  Converging to a single network and defining a Wire Once standard configuration solves this problem.

Deploying

In order for environments to take advantage of a wire once environment, customers will need to reconcile their management and security practices to allow for all traffic to share the same physical connection.  Management and security has matured to a point where this is feasible.  Since adoption of 10GbE is starting to hit the S-Curve of adoption, prices are dropping and there are a growing number of offerings (lots of vendors and more cabling options).  Existing environments can put Wire Once methodology in place for new racks or for significant updates, such as when virtualization deploying virtualization.  Customers that are planning a new data center should consider implementing a Wire Once strategy.

What other next practices are you looking at to transform your datacenter?

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