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Xsigo Says to Ditch the Network

Craig Matsumoto
8/15/2011
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Xsigo Systems Inc. says it's got a way to connect data-center servers or virtual machines together without using the network, a scheme that could become an end run around the data-center fabrics proposed by switch/router vendors.

The normal way to handle these east-west connections from one server to another is to send the traffic through a virtual LAN, which requires configuration time and sometimes involves multiple people.

"The VMware guy and the server guy have to be in total lock-step about how they're configuring things," says Jon Toor, Xsigo's vice president of marketing.

Xsigo's Server Fabric, being announced Monday, lets an operator make those connections directly, without sending traffic out to the network. (The I/O Director, Xsigo's appliance for connecting servers to network storage, might get involved, but the switches that sit beyond it would not.)

It's a simpler, faster way to reconfigure parts of the data center and could speed up cloud computing operations, Xsigo claims.

Server Fabric requires no new hardware, only software -- the SFS 1.0 Server Fabric Suite includes pieces that have to get installed on servers, I/O Directors and Xsigo's management software. The software should be available in production versions in December, Toor says.

Why this matters
This could make Xsigo a competitor to the data-center fabrics being proposed by Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). Each of those companies is pitching a way to reduce the number of switching layers in the data center (that is, turning the three-layer paradigm of access, aggregation and core switches into two layers or even just one).

With the Server Fabric, Xsigo is doing essentially the same thing, Toor says. But the network isn't involved, and that could leave a data-center operator open to using equipment from multiple vendors. While the switch vendors all talk about honoring standards, their fabric schemes are aimed at getting customers to buy equipment from one vendor. Xsigo can act as an upstart neutral party for operators that don't want to pick a side.

Compared with the others, Xsigo is a smaller company, so its impact on data-center fabric plans might not be huge. But it's interesting to see a startup pitch an alternative at a time when the market hasn't picked its fabric winners yet.

For more
Until now, Xsigo's I/O virtulization hasn't been synonymous with the collapsing of data-center switching layers. Here's a handful of stories about both topics.



— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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