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What is Data Center Network Technology?

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What is Data Center Network Technology?



Jeff Kish covers the network topology in a data center. He will also compare the differences between a traditional campus and a data center network.

Have you ever wanted to poke around a data center and peek at its topology?

It’s not very common for data centers to open their doors to Johnny Public because those doors are tightly guarded. So we need to explain it instead.

A data center network has some commonalities with a traditional campus network. For instance, both use a lot of switches. Both connect to a lot of edge devices. Both still use VLANs, IP, and ethernet. Both use similar protocols like BGP or OSPF.

There are many differences, too.

Though a data centers have tons of switches, it uses very few routers. That’s because data centers tend to be tightly integrated into one building. Data centers don’t span across the country like a satellite office for a business would.

That also means that data centers use a different structure. A campus network typically has three layers; core, distribution, and access. The DC topology can use a similar structure, but the distribution layer is called an aggregation layer.

However, it’s more common for a modern data center to use a spine and leaf structure. Each leaf connects to multiple spines, but spines never connect to each other. Nor do leaves. Leaves connect to spines which, in turn, link back to multiple leaves. Traffic needs to route through leaves to get to each other. That also means that the network core connects directly to the leaves as well.

There’s a reason for this. The DC network topology depends on layer 2, unlike a campus network. Campus networks live and die by layer 3. However, a data center needs the flexibility of layer 2 for things like scaling or migrating a VM from one compute node to another.

You’re also going to find other technologies in a data center that are not common in a campus network. For instance, Fibre Channel is big in data centers. So is VXLAN.

Of course, there are many more differences between a data center and a campus network.

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