On August 7, 2012, the Wikibon community gathered to discuss network scalability from the perspective of a high-growth service provider. Luke Norris, CEO of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider Peak Colo, shared how the adoption of a converged network helps his company cope with 300% annual traffic growth.
A Converged Network
Peak Colo is on its fifth generation of infrastructure; over the last year, it has moved from a heterogeneous network environment that was made up of 1Gb Ethernet switches from multiple vendors and Fibre Channel (FC) to a single network supplier (Brocade) with 10Gb Ethernet. Peak Colo has eliminated its FC environment completely and rather than moving to the incremental change of FCoE, it has moved to an environment that is 90% NFS and 10% iSCSI. Luke stated that NFS fits well with the VMware environment (Peak Colo is a VMware Premier Solutions Provider) that it runs on NetApp storage.
Peak Colo claims that it does not have the infrastructure silos that have slowed enterprise adoption of converged environments. The company has requirements of resiliency and scale, which the active-active 10Gb Ethernet environment delivers. Peak Colo found that Brocade delivered the enterprise FC feature set in the VDX Ethernet Fabric. IT is focused on the application requirements, rather than silos. The typical three-to-five year infrastructure refresh puts applications in sub-optimal environments; IaaS providers offer a way to consistently stay on a more modern architecture.
Modern Network Architecture
The upgrade of the networking for Peak Colo was about much more than an increase in bandwidth. In the past, upgrades or additions/removals of switches was a complicated and labor-intensive task; with the deployment of a fabric-based solution, these tasks became much simpler to perform. With Brocade’s subscription service, Peak Colo gained granular control of costs down to the port level, not just the switch or card. Luke spoke highly of how the elimination of Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) in favor of a TRILL-based solution increased the utility and agility of the network (see the integration action article for more detail). The deployment of Brocade VDX delivered a 50%-60% reduction in networking cost for Peak Colo, and these savings have been passed on to customers. The network provides segmentation, allowing the management of a unique SAN for each customer; this is done even easier on Ethernet than FC. The convergence to a single, more efficient network has led to denser and more power-efficient data centers. Peak Colo puts between 9-18kW of power in a single rack, which can include 240 compute nodes, and up to four 60-port switches. In addition to lower costs and agile deployments, Peak Colo is also able to adopt new generations of technology and new features rapidly due to the technology and financial services received from Brocade’s offerings.
The Opportunity of Low Latency Service Providers
While early adopters of IaaS tended to be small to mid-sized companies deploying test and development environments, over the last two years larger companies with an increasingly diverse application portfolio are looking to IaaS and cloud. Peak Colo delivers exclusively through VARs who sell to CIOs and CFOs who are looking for the agility and economics that IaaS can offer. Peak Colo has discrete cloud nodes in major geographies, allowing it to decrease service delivery latencies. In addition, flash technologies are critical for delivering fast response times. Peak Colo’s Intel white box compute offerings all have SSD and for applications that require extra performance also utilize Fusion-io cards. The NetApp storage arrays are deployed with flash cache, and the new flash pools (delivered in OnTAP 8.1.1) are being tested. From an application standpoint, Peak Colo sees a lot of Web-centric workloads, an increasing number of Tier 1 applications and is starting to see users requesting IaaS to support Big Data.
Action Item: Virtualization requires that CIOs rethink overall architectures. Fabric architectures are designed to provide agility and flexibility to the networking team while providing better economics for both acquisition and operations. IT organizations that can overcome thinking in silos will be more suited to maintain a competitive advantage and have infrastructure that can support modern applications. Companies should also use the transition of networking as an opportunity to evaluate applications that may be suited for moving to IaaS.