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◎ What’s Happening Inside an Ethernet Switch ? ( Or Network Switches for Virtualization People )

I was going to call this article “Ethernet Switches for Virtualisation Engineers” but, really, everyone should have some understanding of the internals of an Ethernet switch. But particularly I want to focus on how multicast and broadcasts are handled in a high speed, low latency environment like a Data Centre Network.

It’s vital to understand that latency is critical to your application performance. It is common for a single transaction to take hundreds of round trips so a small increase in latency on each round trip has a large impact on the perceived performance. The client will send a chunk of data and wait for acknowledgement. Even setting up the TCP connection takes a few round trip – remember that TCP sessions are setup, and each data transfer is confirmed.

A modern network switch will have latency around 10 microseconds. The Cisco Nexus 7000 is about 8 microseconds & Brocade VDX 8770 claims less than 4 microseconds. There are many reasons why a switch can be faster or slower but I’ll look at a specific example

Remember, the latency interval is the time taken to receive a packet, decode the address, lookup the forwarding table, switch the packet (and copy it if needed) and transmit out of an Ethernet interface. That’s really fast processing. How does an Ethernet switch do this ?

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Tech Notes: Juniper QFabric – A Perspective on Scaling Up

Juniper QFabric is a new approach to Ethernet Switch Fabrics. When it was announced last year,it was noted that the underlying physical design is a completely different approach to building Switch Fabrics. Here I’m taking a loosely research based approach to understand how Juniper QFabric is different from all other approaches to the problem, and also a look at some of the challenges ahead.

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