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Will enhanced servers do away with need for switches?

Jim Duffy | Jan. 8, 2015
Some functions will likely be subsumed, but disaggregation not likely to replace ToR switches.

Intel's DPDK is an enabler, Hanson says, as are some of the hardware assist capabilities of Cisco's UCS servers in Network Functions Virtualization applications where general purpose x86 platforms lack adequate horsepower. But how best to achieve distributed, disaggregated switching and memory management and when the industry is ready for it is still open for debate, he says.

"The reasons we're having these discussions with Intel around RackScale is as a complementary architecture, where we're looking at expanding more sections of that server, distributed and disaggregated, across a rack of servers," Hanson says. "We have that right now within a rack of UCS to share some of these components, but maybe not down to the memory channels that Intel is looking at."

Hanson pointed to Cisco's System Link technology in its UCS M-Series servers, unveiled three months ago, as a capability that could map into RackScale. System Link is silicon that gives M-Series the ability to connect disaggregated subsystems into a fabric with software-defined, policy-based provisioning, deployment and management of resources per application.

But like Dell'Oro's Weckel, Hanson believes the rate at which customers adopt System Link, RackScale or server/switch disaggregation will ultimately determine if or when servers become the ToR switch of the future.

"The question is, how fast some of this might happen and the depth at which that will come together," Hanson says. "There will be underlying technical hurdles that need to be addressed. Depending on the customer ability to consume that kind of change in technology will be the primary driving factor. We're always looking at new and better technology than what we can bring, but a lot depends on the rate of absorption of technology that customers are willing to accept."


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