Data Center Switch Wiki, Usage and Buying Tips

September 4, 2018

The data center switch is emerging as a new class of switch since data center networking infrastructures become more disaggregated. Unlike the network switch for traditional three-tier hierarchical networks, data center class switches are designed to support data and storage for mission critical applications. Now with various data center switches and vendors in the market, buying a good one can be a difficult task. Here will help you learn what a data center switch is, when to use data center switches, as well as some useful buying tips.

data center switch

What Is A Data Center Switch?

Generally speaking, the data center switch is a high performance switch mainly for large enterprises and cloud providers who rely heavily on virtualization. It can be deployed throughout the data center, or to anchor a two-tier (leaf-spine) or one-tier flat mesh or fabric architecture.

Data Center Switch Features

Here are some features data center switches share in common for you to better identify a data center switch:

They can handle both north-south and east-west traffic flows;
All data center switches are used both in top-of-rack (ToR) and end-of-row (EoR) architecture;
They support high-bandwidth interconnections using both standard LAN Ethernet protocol and SAN protocols. For example, Fibre Channel and Fibre Channel over Ethernet;
They have extensive high availability and fault tolerance systems in the hardware and software. Therefore provide better uptime for mission-critical applications;
All components of a distributed data center switch can be managed from a single management interface for ease of use.

When to Replace Traditional Switches with Data Center Switches?

Though the data center switch is popular now, it is not suitable for every enterprise. Before replacing your traditional LAN/SAN Gigabit Ethernet switches with data center switches, you should consider whether you will benefit best from the newer ones. Generally, the data center switch is essential in the following circumstances:

Converging LAN and SAN Networks

Traditionally, LAN and SAN networks ran separately and parallelly in the data center for using different protocols. Now these two networks can be collapsed down to a single hybrid network by the data center bridging (DCB). Data center switches are important parts of the hybrid network as they use storage over Ethernet protocols like Fibre Channel over Ethernet. Converging LAN and SAN together can save capital costs and simplify the network administration.

Data Center Network Virtualization

Network virtualization is now a hot topic in data centers for cost saving and ease of management. However, standard LAN switches are not capable of handling the port speeds required in modern virtualized data centers. So if you turn to the network virtualization, higher speed data center switches such as 10GbE, 40GbE, 100GbE switches are recommended.

Great Increase in East-West Traffic

Since the advent of virtualization and big data, east-west traffic within the data center is growing rapidly. To handle this, you need high capacity and multipurpose data center switches. When east-west traffic begins to overtake north-south traffic in your data center, it's time to move toward a more comprehensive data center switch architecture.

Things To Consider When Buying the Data Center Switch

While most data center switches share similar features in the market, you need to consider some key factors when purchasing data center switches for your business.

Number of Ports, Data Rate and Throughput Capacity

The data center switch comes in many varieties and offers different ports. It’s your task to figure out how many ports you need now and in the future. In addition to port numbers, you should also decide whether you need 10 Gbps, 40Gbps, or 100Gbps connectivity. Further more, switch data throughput capacity is also important. It’s critical to estimate your current and future data flow mappings and throughput requirements, and buy the right size of data center switch with sufficient backplane throughput capacity to avoid bottlenecks.

Network Design: Top-of-Rack (ToR) or End-of-Row (EoR)

Another aspect to consider is whether you use ToR or EoR network. If you already have an end-of-row network cabling in place, it’s better to make use of the existing wiring and deploy larger capacity data center EoR switches. If you plan to build a new data center or new cabling, Using ToR data center switches for the ToR network is a better idea, for they will offer more flexibility in terms of physical port coverage across the data center.

Data Center Switch Vendors

The data center switch’s performance, price and support service vary from one vendor to the other. The support service includes hardware replacement, software upgrades and configuration, troubleshooting assistance, etc. You may consider buying the switches from different vendors as the SDN is emerging. However, unless you use a truly open SDN platform, buying from a single vendor is a wise choice for it is future-proofing. We should select a data center switch vendor that offers the most premium features and services at the most competitive price.

Are You Ready to Buy the Data Center Switch?

Now it’s your time to consider whether to use the data center switch and how to buy one. When you decide to buy one, the key is to find the suitable ones based on your specific needs. And then evaluate the data center switch vendors in such aspects as price and support service. FS provides various high performance data center ToR switches at competitive prices. Free technical support and service are also available.


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