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Industry split on data center network standards

Jim Duffy, Network World | March 21, 2011
The industry appears deeply fractured over the best approach to data center networks, with some vendors backing the IETF's TRILL, some backing the IEEE's SPB, others offering proprietary protocols and still others advocating a combination of approaches.

"We therefore think we can offer a lower-cost solution to our customers with Ethernet, at least for the short term," Ashwood-Smith says.

As for calculations, SPB offers an option where users can turn off multicast state, which results in calculations that are "considerably faster" than TRILL's, Ashwood-Smith says. And on the issues of standards progress, Ashwood-Smith says SPB was set back a bit by Nortel's bankruptcy and asset sell-off; and that a shotgun-type forwarding option is being added to the specification.

But pre-standard versions of SPB are in 20 or more live deployments, and a "substantial" demonstration of interoperability testing -- including five physical and 32 emulated switches from two vendors -- was done at a vendor's lab in Ottawa. Ashwood-Smith expects SPB to be ratified in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, a TRILL interoperability "plugfest" was recently completed at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory last year and another is being planned, Eastlake says. The TRILL base protocol is an approved IETF standard, as are two IS-IS companion documents, he says. But those companion documents are not yet published RFCs, Eastlake says.

The TRILL Working Group has been re-chartered and work is continuing on further TRILL development, including management, OA&M and the like. Cisco claims that its FabricPath technology is based on TRILL, and BLADE Network Technologies, which was acquired by IBM, is also backing TRILL, Eastlake says.

As a result, "I believe that TRILL has increasing momentum," Eastlake concludes.



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