What are the benefits of network convergence?
Mon 21 Apr 2014
Network convergence – the delivery of a range of communications services through a single cable – is rising and changing the way businesses work. This is producing a number of benefits not least to the data centre observes Dr Thomas Wellinger, market manager data centres with Reichle & De-Massari (R&M)
Until recently, discrete groups of in-building resources would be devoted to one particular function such as telephony, internet, security, building infrastructure or data transport. Today, however, ‘network convergence’ is on the rise. Integrated pools of (virtualised) computing, storage and networking resources are increasingly being shared across multiple applications, enabled by highly efficient, policy-driven processes.
Smaller footprint – Virtualisation requires less hardware to achieve the same levels of performance and manage the same workload. It supports the latest generation of energy-efficient, smaller data centre equipment. Thinner cabling for next-generation technologies means you don’t need to store quite as many cables in raised floors. This saves on materials and resources whilst improving air circulation – which saves energy. In addition, servers and switches need less transmission power thanks to shorter links.
Smarter systems – Convergence gives users access to increasingly sophisticated system intelligence. It can provides enormous efficiency increases, from both technical and business perspectives, centralising management of IT resources, consolidating systems, boosting resource utilisation rates and lowering costs. Monitoring network ports, cables, connectors and components in real time with an intelligent infrastructure management system pays off. Full overview and control of the physical infrastructure allows you to use it more efficiently. Operating only the capacities you really need optimises energy and material consumption.
Power saving – Deployment of converged networks helps reduce overall power consumption, improves cooling efficiency and enables the introduction of further energy-saving measures. Less ventilation is required in computer rooms. The latest generation of cabling also has an improved noise ratio, and requires less power for noise cancelling. Convergence enables the introduction of Energy Efficient Ethernet (IEEE 802.3az standard). When a link is idle, part of the transmission circuit goes into ‘low power mode’, without impacting data transmission. When the link is required again, it is simply ‘woken up’ after a predetermined delay. Use of Power over Ethernet is also facilitated with network convergence. ‘PoE’ can now provide up to 25.5 watts – alongside data – over long lengths of cable.
Things to bear in mind
Changing requirements – In a ‘converged network’ environment, Ethernet transports data, but also networks an ever-growing number of devices. This can have big consequences for power and distribution efficiency requirements.
Rethinking system architecture – Many ‘tried and tested’ products may no longer work in a new integrated system. This doesn’t just have consequences for suppliers and end users – IT support staff will be required to integrate new solutions and platforms into existing environments. Or they might have to start from scratch with an entirely new suite of products and applications.
Testing and assessment – Besides the speed of your connections, the quality is important, as well as the interoperability between different manufacturers’ hard- and software. Getting it right is vital – oversights are costly and time-consuming to fix after the fact – but this does require much more than comparing spec sheets.