This chapter covers the following topics:
- Unified Fabric overview
- Enabling technologies
- Nexus 5x00 Unified Fabric configuration
- Nexus 7000 Unified Fabric configuration
- Cisco MDS Unified Fabric configuration
The Nexus family of switches represents a revolutionary approach to I/O within the data center referred to as Unified Fabric.
Unified Fabric Overview
One of the biggest trends in data centers today is consolidation, which can mean many different things. In some cases, consolidation refers to a physical consolidation of data centers where dozens or even hundreds of data centers are geographically dispersed and consolidated into a smaller number of large data centers. Consolidation can also exist within a data center where a large number of underutilized physical servers are consolidated, usually by leveraging some type of virtualization technology, into a smaller number of physical servers. Although virtualization offers many benefits, including consolidation of processors, memory, and storage, little is done to consolidate the amount of adapters, cables, and ports within the data center. In most virtualization implementations, there is actually a requirement for more adapters, cables, and ports to achieve the dense I/O requirements associated with virtualization. Data centers today contain multiple network fabrics that require discreet connectivity components to each fabric.
I/O consolidation is a trend within data centers that refers to the capability to aggregate connectivity to multiple fabrics into a single or redundant pair of adapters, cables, and port. Although new technologies have emerged to enable this consolidation to occur, the concept is not new. Fibre Channel, iSCSI, Infiniband, and others were all introduced in an attempt to consolidate I/O. Although the merits or consolidation capabilities of each of these technologies might be open to debate, for one reason or another, all failed to reach mainstream adoption as the single fabric for all I/O requirements.
As a consolidation technology, Unified Fabric offers several benefits to customers, including
- Lower capital expenditures: Through the reduction of adapters, cables, and ports required within the infrastructure.
- Lower operational expenses: Through the reduction of adapters, cables, and ports drawing power within the data center.
- Reduced deployment cycles: Unified Fabric provides a wire-once model, in which all LAN, SAN, IPC, and management traffic is available to every server without requiring additional connectivity components.
- Higher availability: Quite simply, fewer adapters and ports means fewer components that could fail.