Always Hungry: Feeding Data Center Bandwidth Demands in the Cloud Era

Mitch Wagner
4/26/2018

The new generation of cloud applications is creating a ferocious appetite for bandwidth -- not just to the user, but also inside the data center and between data centers.

"When you've got data centers running virtual applications, you've got an awful lot of bandwidth, not only between the users and the data center, but you've also got a lot of east-west traffic -- you've got a lot of traffic running between servers," says Simon Stanley, Heavy Reading analyst at large.

Improvements to server hardware also drive bandwidth demand, Stanley says. These improvements include faster processors, which can go through more data faster; smart NICs, which offload work from server processors, freeing those processors for more data intensive work; and FPGAs that allow the NIC itself to handle work such as encryption. All of those developments increase the amount of data that the server can handle, requiring greater bandwidth to meet that demand.

Bandwidth in the data center is rising meteorically. Cisco's Global Cloud Index predicts data center traffic will triple between 2016 and 2021. (See Cisco: Data Centers Are Eating the Internet.)


Boost your knowledge of cloud-native software and innovations driving data center transformations! Join us in Austin at the fifth annual Big Communications Event May 14-16. The event is free for communications service providers -- secure your seat today!


And networking vendors are stepping up to meet that demand. At the recent Optical Fiber Communications conference, we saw the first 400Gbit/s data center solutions sampled for up to 2km distances built on QSFP28 modules, as well as other technologies to feed next-generation data rates. For data center interconnect, we're seeing solutions emerging for 600 Gbit/s and 1.2 terabits, Stanley said. (See 400G Achieves Significant Market Availability.)

Indeed, bandwidth demands are leading to a renaissance in optical technology, as vendors scramble to fill the need. (See Optical on the Up: OFC 2018.)

This connectivity demand will be the subject of a panel moderated by Stanley at the Big Communications Event May 14-16 in Austin. Also on the panel, "Connecting the Data Center: Bandwidth and Flexibility," will be representatives from Menara Networks, Xilinx, Intel and a service provider representative, Stanley says. We hope to see you there!

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