Introduction to Data Center Fabrics


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Introduction to Data Center Fabrics

The first networking infrastructure module of the course introduces the data center fabrics concept and the leaf-and-spine architecture.

After completing this module you'll be able to design a small leaf-and-spine fabric.

54:02 What is a Data Center Fabric

Before starting the Designing and Building Data Center Fabrics online course, let’s try to answer a seemingly simple question “what is a data center fabric?”

What Is a Data Center Fabric 16:33 2016-05-19
Market Overview 18:16 2019-01-03
Choosing a Solution 12:39 2019-01-03
Keep It Simple 6:34 2018-11-22

Test your knowledge

Review Questions 152K 2017-10-09

1:22:50 Data Center Fabric Requirements

What services should your data center fabric provide? What requirements should you consider when designing it? This section lists a number of potential requirements and explains why they might be relevant to your design.

Optimal Bandwidth Utilization 15:59 2016-05-19
Redundant Edge Connectivity 4:14 2016-05-19
Layer-2 Transport and VM Mobility 9:03 2016-05-19
Enhanced Layer-2 Transport 11:22 2016-05-19
Optimal Layer-3 Forwarding 10:50 2016-05-19
Multiple Routing Domains 5:35 2016-05-19
Storage Integration 7:20 2016-05-19
Lossless Transport and Data Center Bridging 4:46 2016-05-19
Table Sizes and Packet Buffers 13:41 2016-05-19

Slide Deck

Data Center Fabrics - Requirements 9.6M 2016-05-22

Test your knowledge

Review Questions 186K 2017-10-09

3:03:22 Free items Typical Fabric Technologies Overview

Data center fabrics often rely on technologies you might not find anywhere else in your network. This section describes those technologies and their impact on fabric design.

3:03:22 Networking technologies

Some of the technologies used in data center fabrics are standardized. Others are not, but they’re still used by most vendors in one form or another.

This section describes some technologies you’ll find in most data center fabric solutions, including Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation (MLAG), Unified Forwarding Tables (UFT), chassis architectures, ASIC buffering, and 400 Gigabit Ethernet.

MLAG Technology Overview 17:28 2016-06-22
UFT Technology Overview 13:00 2017-08-02
Speeds and Breakout Options 6:42 2019-01-03

In March 2020, Mark Nowell did a deep dive into 400 GbE technology, optics, and form factors

In April 2020, Pete Lumbis described ASIC architectures and behavior from software engineer's perspective.

The technologies needed to support storage protocols in data center fabrics have been described in Storage Infrastructure and Protocols module.

Test your knowledge

Review Questions 177K 2017-11-06

Leaf-and-Spine Fabrics

1:24:47 Introduction to leaf-and-spine fabrics

Traditional data center networks used a 3-tier design that was mostly mandated by hardware limitations, resulting in unequal bandwidth between endpoints based on their locations. In the last few years the networking industry rediscovered the work of Charles Clos (from 1953) and everyone started promoting leaf-and-spine fabrics.

Challenges of Traditional Data Center Networks 16:04 2017-11-05
Clos Networks and Leaf-and-Spine Fabrics 16:39 2017-11-05

Additional Resources

Slide deck 1.3M 2017-11-04

52:04 From the Design Clinic

Leaf-and-Spine Fabrics Outside of Data Centers 22:59 2021-12-27
Integrating Storage in Leaf-and-Spine Fabrics 22:32 2022-04-02
Migrating to a Leaf-and-Spine Fabric 6:33 2022-04-02

Further Reading

Demystifying DCN Topologies: Clos Networks
Demystifying DCN Topologies: Fat trees and leaf-and-spine fabrics

Test your knowledge

Review Questions 166K 2017-11-04

45:54 Physical Leaf-and-Spine Fabric Topology

After mastering the basic principles of leaf-and-spine fabrics described in the Introduction section we're moving on to the physical design: how do you build a leaf-and-spine fabric given number of edge ports and oversubscription ratio? What if you need less than 100 ports? What if you need 50.000 ports? What do you do if you have to support low-speed edge interfaces?

The examples in the following videos use switches with 10GE/40GE ports. Don't be bothered by that; the same considerations and design calculations apply to fabrics built with higher-speed switches, for example switches with 100GE server ports and 400GE uplinks.

Physical Leaf-and-Spine Fabric Design 14:55 2017-11-05
Small Fabrics and Lower-Speed Interfaces 9:07 2017-11-05
Building Very Large Fabrics 21:52 2017-11-05
Physical Leaf-and-Spine Fabric Design 1.7M 2017-11-04

Test your knowledge

Review Questions 172K 2017-11-04

50:52 Free items Building Enterprise Data Center with Two Switches

Understanding leaf-and-spine design rules is great. Being able to design large scalable fabrics is even better… but it turns out that after thorough infrastructure optimization many customers don't need more than two switches per data center.

This section describes the steps that will help you get the optimal infrastructure for a small- to mid-sized enterprise data center.

All You Need Are Two Switches 4:10 2016-03-30
Virtualize the Servers 10:53 2016-03-30
Ditch Legacy Technologies 6:08 2016-03-30
Minimize the Number of Uplinks 11:07 2016-03-30
Use Distributed File System 3:06 2016-03-30
Virtualize Network Services 4:55 2016-03-30
Final Result - Two Switches 10:33 2016-03-30
Slide Deck 2.0M 2015-11-15

Design Assignment: Build a Small Data Center Fabric

In this assignment you'll create the physical topology of a small data center fabric and select the switches used to implement it.

If you're not familiar with data center switches from major networking vendors, use the information from the Reference Materials part of this module.

Design Assignment: Build a Small Data Center Fabric 124K 2017-12-30
Submit your solution

Optional Self-Study and Reference Materials

Whiteboarding and Q&A from Live Course Sessions

This section contains recordings of Q&A and whiteboarding sessions from previous live courses. In these sessions we covered a wide range of topics, from pods and superspines to RIFT, OpenFabric and Segment Routing.

Overlay virtual networking, leaf-and-spine fabrics, pods and superspines (2016)
Infrastructure complexity, QoS, Contrail, NSX, ACI (2017)
OpenFabric, RIFT, Traffic Engineering and Segment Routing in data centers (2018)

1:14:48 Whitebox Switching and Disaggregation

This section describes the differences between SDN, disaggregation and whitebox switching, the major components you'll find in any disaggregated solution (from hardware abstraction layer to control-plane components) and the benefits and drawbacks of several disaggregated network operating systems.

Whitebox and Disaggregation Drivers 13:38 2017-09-17
Components 18:19 2017-09-17
Network Operating Systems 19:28 2017-09-17
Challenges 13:12 2017-09-17
Questions 10:11 2017-09-17

Additional resources

Slide deck 1.2M 2017-05-09

Test your knowledge

Review Questions 167K 2017-12-30

Reference: Data Center Fabric solutions

In this section you’ll find an overview of data center fabric solutions from major data center switching vendors. The Data Center Fabrics webinar (included with this course) contains even more information.

Arista EOS

This section contains information on Arista’s data center switches and software features available in Arista EOS.

Product Overview - Arista 7:26 2019-01-03
Product Details - Arista 10:26 2017-08-18
Software Features Release Overview - Arista 28:42 2017-08-18
Highlighted Software Features - Arista EOS 45:26 2017-08-18
Highlighted Software Features - Arista 7150 8:18 2014-07-22
OpenFlow Support - Arista 13:36 2015-12-22
VXLAN Support - Arista 19:01 2017-08-18

Cisco Nexus Switches

This section covers Cisco’s Nexus series of data center switches and their Nexus-OS operating system.

Product Overview - Cisco Nexus Switches 9:00 2019-01-03
Product Details - Cisco 3:35 2014-09-12
FabricPath, vPC and DFA 17:37 2016-01-04
Software Release Overview - Nexus OS 34:25 2017-08-21
Highlighted Software Features - Nexus OS 19:45 2017-08-21
OpenFlow Support in Nexus Switches 4:20 2017-08-21
VXLAN Support in Nexus Switches 16:21 2017-08-21

Juniper QFX- and EX Series

This section covers Juniper’s QFX- and EX-series of data center switches and the data center features of Junos.

Product Overview - Juniper Data Center Switches 6:04 2019-01-03
Product Details - QFX- and EX-Series Switches 9:57 2016-01-04
Product Details - QFabric 8:08 2014-10-17
Virtual Chassis 10:30 2014-10-17
Junos Software Release Overview 19:42 2018-11-23
Highlighted Software Features 23:45 2018-11-23
OpenFlow Support on Juniper Data Center Switches 2:54 2016-01-04
VXLAN Support on Juniper Data Center Switches 17:03 2018-11-23

Relevant Webinars

All webinars in this section are included with your online course. Some of them are part of the core course content, others are included as reference material.

Data Center Fabric Architectures 20:27:00

The webinar describes the data center networking requirements and various approaches to data center fabric networks. It includes an in-depth analysis of fabric architectures used by major data center networking vendors, and compares their scalability and ease-of-use.

Leaf-and-Spine Fabric Architectures 13:07:00

The Leaf-and-Spine Fabric Architectures webinar describes the leaf-and-spine (Clos fabric) concepts, architecture, and single- and multistage designs that can be used to build large layer-2 or layer-3 all-point-equidistant Data Center networks.

Data Center Infrastructure for Networking Engineers 10:40:00

A broad overview of modern data center architectures and technologies covering server and LAN virtualization, LAN reference architectures and emerging fabric architectures, storage area networks and basics of data center interconnects.

Open Networking for Large-Scale Networks 2:22:00

This webinar covers the design components involved in building a data center or cloud fabric using a single, disaggregated device—the way some hyperscale and web scale operators build their networks.

Networks, Buffers, and Drops 1:12:00

Buffering is a confusing and sometimes controversial topic when it comes to networking. In this short presentation, JR Rivers discusses some of the related theory and practicalities, and gives insight into tools that are available to networking specialists.

ExpertExpress Case Studies

The ExpertExpress case studies describe network design or deployment problems typically discussed during ExpertExpress sessions. They're based on real-life queries and consulting engagements but never represent an actual customer network.

Introduction to Virtualized Networking 3:31:00

Introductory webinar describing the networking requirements of server virtualization and IaaS cloud services, workload mobility, large-scale virtual networking solutions and multi-tenant isolation. This webinar is the recommended entry-level starting point for networking engineers interested in virtualization and cloud services.

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