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Huawei Unveils Ground-Breaking Data Center Switch for AI Era

Robert Clark, for Huawei
Partner Perspectives
Robert Clark, for Huawei

One thing is clear about the emerging new world of AI – it will put unprecedented demands on data center networks.

For a start, that means a massive and growing tide of data. According to a Huawei analysis, the aggregate volume of data will increase from 10 zettabytes in 2018 to 180 zettabytes in 2025.

Additionally, Gartner predicts the number of users of AI services will grow 270% over 2018-19.

In a survey of CIOs the research firm found that 40% expected AI to be a “game-changer,” well ahead of analytics (23%) and the cloud (12%).

But the growing deployment of AI services and their new and different modes of operating will also place stringent demands on infrastructure, requiring higher performance, lower latencies and more efficient energy consumption.

It is to meet these networking challenges that Huawei has developed the industry’s first data center switch embedded with AI chips, the CloudEngine 16800.

Kevin Hu, President of Huawei Network Product Line, said at the product launch in Beijing last week: “A fully-connected, intelligent world is fast approaching. Data centers will become the core of the new infrastructures such as 5G and AI.”

But he warned that without a step change in capacity and performance, data center networks could become “the bottleneck that hinders large-scale commercial use of AI.”

He said once an in-depth AI learning algorithm had been developed, the next challenge was data processing.

However, a data center running traditional Ethernet would be simply unable to meet the performance demands of AI.

A packet loss rate of just 1‰ is not unusual in today’s Ethernet, but for an AI application it would reduce the effective computing power of the data centre by 50%.

With an AI chip using the innovative iLossless algorithm, the CloudEngine 16800 detects the network status in real time and automatically senses and optimizes the traffic to ensure zero packet loss and higher throughput. It also boosts the AI computing power from 50 percent to 100 percent and data storage Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) by 30%.

To ensure fast data transmission, the CloudEngine 16800 is the industry’s highest density switch.

“100GE can’t support a 20x traffic increase,” said Hu, so the new switch carries a 48-port 400GE line card per slot and up to 768 400GE ports.

“It greatly reduces the number of core devices, simplifying the network and improving efficiency.”

To support such high-density equipment, Huawei’s development teams have developed new materials and new processes to improve heat dissipation and power supply.

Mountain Wei, Huawei Network Product Line Chief Marketing Officer, said the other key innovation of the AI switch was the intelligent operations and maintenance (O&M) capability.

Traditional manual O&M methods are unable to meet requirements as the number of data center servers continues to increase and the compute network, storage network and data network converged.

Currently it can takes hours to locate issues using manual methodologies, Wei said.

“Any failure must be quickly identified and some conclusions and predictions made from that. The intelligent O&M is essential in the AI era.” he added.

Already there a lot of interesting AI use cases, he says.

“To cite a simple one, there is the ability to predict the failure of optical modules. They are widely-used in data centers and if there is any failure it would be a disaster for the data center or the network.”

“Huawei is working with partners to predict those failures in advance so proactive maintenance can be carried out to prevent those failures from happening.”

Domestically, Huawei has been the market leader in data center switching for the past three years with a 39% market share.

Globally it has been the fastest growing company in the market, posting CAGR of 82% over the past six years.

At home and abroad, Huawei is eyeing a broad market for the new switch.

“Not just OTT and internet players,” Wei said. “We think that whoever needs AI services can use our products, ranging from financial sector to government agencies and other major companies.”

Huawei is offering multiple options of the switch, including 16, 8 or 4-slot versions, and is also weighing the future release of 400G fixed data center switch products.

This article is sponsored by Huawei.

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