Data Center Fabric Architectures

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The webinar describes the data center networking requirements and various approaches to data center fabric networks. It includes an in-depth analysis of fabric architectures used by major data center networking vendors, and compares their scalability and ease-of-use.

Last modified on 2024-02-10 (release notes)


Data Center Fabric Architectures

1:07:11 Introduction and Market Overview

This section describes the structure of the webinar materials, lists other webinars you should watch to master data center fabric design, and addresses fundamental questions like:

  • What is a data center fabric?
  • How do I start designing one?
  • Who are the major players?
  • Does merchant silicon matter?
  • How do I choose a vendor and/or a fabric solution?
Webinar Overview 13:09 2019-01-03
What Is a Data Center Fabric 16:33 2016-05-19
Keep It Simple 6:34 2018-11-22
Market Overview 18:16 2019-01-03
Choosing a Solution 12:39 2019-01-03
Slide Deck 1.2M 2018-11-23

1:22:50 Data Center Fabric Requirements

What requirements should you consider when designing a data center fabric? This section lists a number of them and explains why they might be relevant to your design.

Optimal Bandwidth Utilization 15:59 2016-05-19
Redundant Edge Connectivity 4:14 2016-05-19
Layer-2 Transport and VM Mobility 9:03 2016-05-19
Enhanced Layer-2 Transport 11:22 2016-05-19
Optimal Layer-3 Forwarding 10:50 2016-05-19
Multiple Routing Domains 5:35 2016-05-19
Storage Integration 7:20 2016-05-19
Lossless Transport and Data Center Bridging 4:46 2016-05-19
Table Sizes and Packet Buffers 13:41 2016-05-19

Slide Deck

Data Center Fabrics - Requirements 9.6M 2016-05-22

56:19 Data Center Fabric Architectures

Regardless of what the vendors love to tell you, every data center fabric solution implements one of common architectures, ranging from completely distributed to completely centralized.

Not surprisingly, each of these architectures has typical benefits and drawbacks; you’ll discover them in this section.

Fabric Architectures - Introduction 15:08 2016-06-22
Independent Devices 4:42 2016-06-22
Shared Management Plane 7:49 2016-06-22
Centralized Control Plane 13:13 2016-06-22
Centralized Control Plane with Local Offload 6:37 2016-06-22
Centralized Data Plane 6:17 2016-06-22
Conclusions 2:33 2016-06-22

Slide Deck

Data Center Fabrics - Architectures 2.3M 2016-05-30

34:40 Data Center Fabric Designs and Drivers

In the introductory part of 400GbE session Lukas Krattiger covered the "big picture" considerations valid for any data center fabric design:

  • Typical fabric designs and business drivers
  • Leaf and spine role selection
  • Buffer sizes and platform considerations
Data Center Fabric Design and Drivers 11:25 2020-05-05
Leaf and Spine Role Selection 7:32 2020-05-05
Buffer Size 8:36 2020-05-05
Platform Considerations 7:07 2020-05-05

3:03:22 Free items Technology Overviews

Some of the technologies used in data center fabrics are standardized. Others are not, but they’re still used by most vendors in one form or another.

This section describes some technologies you’ll find in most data center fabric solutions, including Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation (MLAG), Unified Forwarding Tables (UFT), chassis architectures, ASIC buffering, and 400 Gigabit Ethernet.

MLAG Technology Overview 17:28 2016-06-22
UFT Technology Overview 13:00 2017-08-02
Speeds and Breakout Options 6:42 2019-01-03

57:11 400 Gigabit Ethernet

In March 2020, Mark Nowell did a deep dive into 400 GbE technology, optics, and form factors

400 GbE Optics 10:33 2020-05-05
Silicon Photonics 5:16 2020-05-05
400G Form Factors 19:22 2020-05-05
Coherent Optics 6:16 2020-05-05
400 GbE Technology Summary 2:39 2020-05-05
400 GbE Optics and Installation Considerations 13:05 2020-05-05
Slide Deck 15M 2020-03-26

1:29:01 ASICs for Networking Engineers

In April 2020, Pete Lumbis described ASIC architectures and behavior from software engineer's perspective.

Introduction 4:26 2020-09-07
ASIC Basics 11:23 2020-09-07
ASIC Basics - Questions and Answers 25:20 2020-09-07
Packet Buffers 20:53 2020-09-07
Chassis Architectures 5:12 2020-09-07
Types of ASICs 7:58 2020-09-07
Wrap-Up 13:49 2020-09-07
Slide Deck 4.5M 2020-04-14

More Information

Andy Bechtolsheim on the 400 Gigabit Landscape

A fantastic description of various transceiver technologies including gearboxes and reverse gearboxes.

Major Networking Vendors

This part of the webinar contains hardware- and software overview of solutions offered by major networking vendors. It was last updated in 2019 -- hardware information is probably obsolete by now, but you might still find interesting descriptions of older software features. Just keep in mind that whenever a video says "vendor X cannot do Y", they probably fixed that by now (but do check whether they did nonetheless).

2:12:55 Arista EOS

This section contains information on Arista’s data center switches and software features available in Arista EOS.

Product Overview - Arista 7:26 2019-01-03
Product Details - Arista 10:26 2017-08-18
Software Features Release Overview - Arista 28:42 2017-08-18
Highlighted Software Features - Arista EOS 45:26 2017-08-18
Highlighted Software Features - Arista 7150 8:18 2014-07-22
OpenFlow Support - Arista 13:36 2015-12-22
VXLAN Support - Arista 19:01 2017-08-18

Slide Decks

Hardware Overview 2018 1.1M 2018-11-23
Rest of the Slide Deck 4.3M 2018-11-23

1:45:03 Cisco Nexus Switches

This section covers Cisco’s Nexus series of data center switches and their Nexus-OS operating system.

Product Overview - Cisco Nexus Switches 9:00 2019-01-03
Product Details - Cisco 3:35 2014-09-12
FabricPath, vPC and DFA 17:37 2016-01-04
Software Release Overview - Nexus OS 34:25 2017-08-21
Highlighted Software Features - Nexus OS 19:45 2017-08-21
OpenFlow Support in Nexus Switches 4:20 2017-08-21
VXLAN Support in Nexus Switches 16:21 2017-08-21

Slide Decks

Hardware Overview 1.2M 2018-11-23
Rest of the Slide Deck 3.1M 2018-11-23

3:17:22 Free items Cumulus Linux

This section describes Cumulus Linux, an open-source Linux-based network operating system running on whitebox switches as well as switches manufactured by Dell and HPE.

Cumulus was acquired by Mellanox, which was acquired by NVIDIA. Cumulus Linux is currently (late 2023) in release 5 which uses new configuration mechanism -- NVUE (NVIDIA User Experience).

2:15:25 Overview

What Is Cumulus Linux All About 23:22 2020-05-18
Cumulus Linux Data Center Architectures 16:00 2018-11-24
Cumulus Linux on Chassis Switches 27:22 2018-11-24
Cumulus Linux Base Technologies 35:42 2018-11-24
Cumulus Linux Architecture and Release Details 19:47 2020-05-18
Cumulus Linux Open Source Contributions 8:55 2018-11-24
Conclusions and Questions 4:17 2017-10-13

1:01:57 Technologies and Solutions

Simplify Network Configuration with Cumulus Linux 20:08 2018-11-24
Smart Datacenter Defaults 15:28 2020-05-18
VXLAN Support in Cumulus Linux 12:23 2017-10-13
Streaming Telemetry with Cumulus NetQ 13:58 2020-05-18

Slide Decks

Initial presentation (May 2015) 1.4M 2015-05-23
June 2016 update 1.5M 2016-06-20
October 2017 update 11M 2017-10-26
October 2019 update 12M 2019-10-14

Additional Information

Choosing an EVPN underlay routing protocol

1:38:03 Juniper QFX- and EX Series

This section covers Juniper’s QFX- and EX-series of data center switches and the data center features of Junos.

Product Overview - Juniper Data Center Switches 6:04 2019-01-03
Product Details - QFX- and EX-Series Switches 9:57 2016-01-04
Product Details - QFabric 8:08 2014-10-17
Virtual Chassis 10:30 2014-10-17
Junos Software Release Overview 19:42 2018-11-23
Highlighted Software Features 23:45 2018-11-23
OpenFlow Support on Juniper Data Center Switches 2:54 2016-01-04
VXLAN Support on Juniper Data Center Switches 17:03 2018-11-23

Slide Decks

Hardware Overview 909K 2018-11-23
Rest of the Slide Deck 2.4M 2018-11-23

Vendors No Longer Included in Annual Updates

These vendors were acquired (Avaya), sliced up and sold for parts (Brocade), or gave up (HP Enterprise). The only one left standing in this category is Dell.

39:57 Free items Avaya (now Extreme) SPB Fabric

This section contains information on Avava’s (now Extreme) data center switches and their SPB fabric solution as of summer 2016.

Hardware and SPB Fabric Overview - Avaya 10:46 2017-08-21
SPB Fabric Features - Avaya 18:09 2017-08-21
Interesting Fabric Use Cases - Avaya 11:02 2017-08-21

Slide Deck

Avaya VSP Data Center Solution Overview 5.0M 2016-10-15

1:53:42 Brocade VCS Fabric

This section covers Brocade’s VDX series of data center switches and their NOS operating system. It was last updated in September 2017 and includes hardware descripton of SLX switches (software documentation wasn't available yet).

Product Overview - Brocade 11:25 2017-09-05
Product Details - Brocade 2:12 2014-08-07
Brocade Fabrics Overview 5:43 2017-09-05
VCS Fabric 29:26 2015-12-22
Brocade IP Fabric 24:46 2017-09-05
Highlighted Software Features - Brocade 15:02 2017-09-05
Software Features Release Overview - Brocade 13:53 2017-09-05
Brocade OpenFlow Support 2:47 2017-09-05
Brocade VXLAN Support 8:28 2017-09-05

Slide Deck

Brocade VCS Fabric 2.9M 2016-10-08

25:57 Dell Force10

This section contains a brief introduction Dell data center switches and FTOS operating system. It was last updated in 2015.

In the meantime, Dell focused on BriteBox switches, although it still has its own network operating system (OS10) that is not covered in this webinar.

No further updates of this section are planned as it seems Dell focuses more on hardware and logistics and uses third-party operating systems (like Cumulus Linux)

Dell Force10 5.4M 2015-12-19
Product Overview - Dell Force10 12:22 2015-12-22
Dell Force10 FTOS Software Features 9:20 2015-12-22
OpenFlow on Dell Force10 Switches 4:15 2015-12-22

25:15 HP IRF

This section describes Comware-based data center switches sold by HPE. It was last updated in 2015.

No further updates of this section are planned - HP seems to be preferring Arista switches over Comware-based platforms.

HP IRF 6.5M 2015-12-19
HP Data Center Switches Product Overview 11:20 2016-01-04
HP Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF) 5:46 2014-10-27
OpenFlow Support on HP Data Center Switches 8:09 2016-01-04

46:33 Other Vendors

This section contains one-off presentations describing minor data center switching vendors. Most of the either gave up or got acquired and disappeared.

The content in this section is no longer updated.

2:42 Alcatel Lucent

The content in this section is no longer updated.

Alcatel Lucent Omniswitch 743K 2014-01-14
Alcatel Lucent Omniswitch 2:42 2013-07-27

6:43 NEC Programmable Flow

NEC ProgrammableFlow 1.2M 2014-05-03
Product Overview - NEC ProgrammableFlow 5:37 2014-10-27
Software Release Overview - NEC ProgrammableFlow 1:06 2014-10-27

37:08 Plexxi

Plexxi Affinity Networking 6.1M 2013-05-20
Plexxi Affinity Networking 37:08 2013-06-16

Original Slide Decks (2011 - 2015)

Data Center Fabric Architectures 3.4M 2011-11-15
Data Center Fabrics Update May 2012 2.3M 2012-05-17
Data Center Fabrics Update November 2012 2.0M 2012-11-15
Data Center Fabrics Update May 2013 1.9M 2013-05-23
Data Center Fabrics Update May 2014 3.1M 2014-05-24
Data Center Fabrics Update May 2015 14M 2015-06-09
Data Center Fabrics Update 2016 4.6M 2016-10-08

17:32 Free items Public Presentations and Videos

Networking Implications of VM Mobility 4:21 2012-03-18
Link Aggregation with Stackable Data Center Switches 8:11 2013-01-07
vLAG Caveats in Brocade VCS Fabric 5:00 2015-01-19
Data Center Fabric Architectures (EuroNOG) 1.9M 2012-09-01
Data Center Fabrics - What Really Matters (RIPE) 1.2M 2012-09-01
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