The TRILLing brain split
The split personality Cisco has exposed at Cisco Live 2010 is amazing: on one hand you have the Data Center team touting the benefits of Routing at Layer 2 (an oxymoron if Iíve ever seen one), on the other hand you have Russ White extolling the virtues of good layer-3 design in the CCDE training (the quote I like most: ìIt all meets at Layer 3 … thatís why CCDE is layer-3 centricî). If youíre confused, youíre not the only one, so letís try to analyze whatís going on.
The clash of interests. Letís be perfectly clear: the best design of your data center network is not the focus of vendorsí activities. Having a well-designed and stable network is definitely in your best interest, it might be in the interest of your external consultants or your system integration partner (assuming they are able to focus beyond quarterly results), but what the vendors want most is to sell you more boxes and/or services. Cisco would love you to upgrade from Catalyst 6500 to Nexus. Introducing a new technology that supposedly brings world peace to data center networks but only runs on a Nexus 7000 could be an enticing motivation for a forklift upgrade.
Virtualization and convergence. This is no news. Servers are getting virtualized. Storage is moving from embedded drives or SAN into converged LAN. LAN network and servers are getting tightly coupled. However, Cisco almost owned the LAN market, Brocade was big in the SAN market and HP is a major player in the server market. After the three components converge, someone is bound to lose big. Thatís why Cisco has launched UCS, Brocade is preaching that the Earth is flat and HP is trying to sell you high-end switches.
They need large-scale bridging. You donít need large-scale bridging in your Data Center. Your server team might think they need it to support inter-site vMotion, but even that can be solved (assuming itís a good idea to start with). Vendors need large-scale bridging if they want to sell you FCoE (remember: itís bridged) or if they want to sell the server managers a vision of seamless private clouds. We all know the drawbacks and complexities of spanning tree, so theyíre introducing a magic technology that will solve all those problems. It doesnít matter that it hasnít been tested, it doesnít matter that it requires new hardware (even Nexus 7000 requires TRILL-enabled blades).
Who are they talking to? In most organizations, the ìserver+storageî budget is bigger than the ìLANî budget (and the server team is bigger than the networking team). If you want to sell unified solutions, you have to sell them to the server managers. Their view of the network is exceedingly simple: it should be transparent. Now go and read the Scaling Data Center with FabricPath white paper and tell me whose sore spots itís addressing.
What can you do? If you have a feud with the server team, dump it. You will have to work very closely with them or they will go over your head and install something youíll be forced to support anyway. Try to understand their concerns and priorities. And, most importantly, start from the business perspective: what is it that your company is trying to solve and what are the true business requirements.
Last but not least, if you need a comprehensive overview of data center, server and storage technologies, you might consider registering for my Data Center 3.0 for Networking Engineers webinar.