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Heradling a new era of Network Infrastructure

Balaji Prabhakar
Monday, January 5, 2009
Balaji Prabhakar
Fifty years ago, letters and phone calls were the primary modes of communication. The need for more efficient and reliable communication spurred the innovation of the network, leading to a variety of novel communication modes which are ubiquitous today: email, the web, the cell phone, video streaming and social networking.

In the shift, an entire new industry was born in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere, and companies like Cisco, Qualcomm, Yahoo!, Google, and Nokia have emerged as household names. There is another shift on the horizon. Novel modes of communication in places like India are leading to a fundamental change in network architectures and protocols and could lead to innovative network infrastructures. For example, witness the rather different uses a cell phone is put to in India, and the rapid adoption of Wi-Max technology. Similarly, the transformation of 'call-centers' into 'data-centers' and then into 'data-center hubs' would become an eventuality in the years to come.

Data centers are emerging as consolidations of enterprise LAN and Storage Area Networks (SANs), carrying Ethernet and Fibre Channel traffic. The transport requirements of these two traffics are quite different: Ethernet is best-effort and Fibre Channel offers lossless packet delivery. Providing a unified fabric poses several challenges and drives the Data Center Bridging standards in IEEE 802.1.
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