Sometimes it seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same.  Back in the day, when Sun Microsystems was flying-high selling leading-edge, distributed computing solutions, the company’s tagline was, “The Network is the Computer.” To many at the time, this was a foreign concept (wasn’t the network just a set of wires connecting autonomous computers on independent missions). However, for those who had the vision to see the advantages of distributed computing, the network provided the vital lifeblood needed to keep things running.

Yes, Sun is no more, a modern-day casualty of high tech evolution. But if you think about it, at no time has the statement been more true than today. With the advent of third-generation distributed, scale-out applications and infrastructure, and the emergence of NVMe over fabrics, the network really has become the system (computer).  The network today is critical to delivering the coordination and control that literally holds together the distributed applications, and converged compute and storage resources that make up the modern-day datacenter.

For decades, the network has been used to connect client desktops to servers. Today, more and more, we are relying on the network to connect servers to servers and storage elements to servers. The big question, the elephant in the room so to speak, is whether the networking we knew back then is up to today’s challenges. With the emergence of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) systems that promise tight consolidation and centralized management of distributed compute and storage resources, agility has become paramount. Organizations need to be able to deploy a hyperconverged infrastructure that can change in real time and incrementally scale as the needs of the applications and business change. Without agility, without the ability to non-disruptively reconfigure and scale “the system”, the full benefits of HCI are severely diluted.

Plexxi understands these key requirements of HCI and recognizes the limitations of existing enterprise networking infrastructures in addressing them. So, we’ve built our own modern networking infrastructure for hyperconverged environments. Plexxi’s Hyperconverged Network (HCN), is designed to support the distributed nature of HCI deployments in a way that tightly integrates into mainstream HCI solutions and scales incrementally. Plexxi’s HCN offers organizations several important advantages over traditional networking solutions:

  • Plexxi HCN is extremely simple and cost-effective to deploy, employing a flat, single-tier physical switch topology that enables all switches to connect directly without having to traverse a leaf/spine switch hierarchy. Plexxi HCN eliminates the complexity and cost of retrofitting an existing enterprise network to support HCI, which typically involves adding more switches and re-cabling between leaf and spine layers of the topology. The net result of this simplicity is fast HCI time-to-value for customers — no waiting for the organizations’ networking stovepipe to approve and implement changes to the existing enterprise network; no more complex cabling between switches; and no more delays when reconfiguration of the HCI environment is required.
  • With Plexxi HCN, network resources are under software control, which means that organizations can optimize their network performance either dynamically or explicitly based on the requirements of critical HCI workload traffic. Through software, Plexxi HCN can isolate specific workloads on the network to ensure predictable performance and security. This eliminates the cost and complexity of deploying separate, physical networks to achieve this workload isolation using traditional networking. With Plexxi HCN, organizations can deploy a single, flat network topology that supports multiple, diverse workloads, including storage traffic like NVMe over fabrics.
  • Plexxi HCN extends its software control of the network via APIs and pre-built integration packs that enable the Plexxi HCN fabric to become aware of the application or underlying infrastructure. This level of integration enables Plexxi HCN to automate operations specific to the application, like auto-discovery of HCI components, including VMs.
  • Plexxi HCN integrates tightly into HCI environments, like Nutanix, at the GUI level. This presents a single HCI solution to customers that includes a single pane of glass for managing converged compute, storage, and
  • Like HCI solutions, Plexxi HCN offers building-block scalability that allows organizations to scale incrementally without disruption to the operating environment. If a new Plexxi HCN switch is needed to increase network capacity, the user can simply add a new switch to the Plexxi HCN topology, and the network will dynamically add the capacity to the fabric with no re-cabling, no service downtime, and no additional software.

As an example, one of our largest customers uses Plexxi HCN to augment their existing IT infrastructure for VDI. Their existing network posed several challenges, mainly around cost, performance, and cost-effective scale. With Plexxi HCN, they reduced capital costs out of the gate, because of Plexxi’s single-tier architecture, which required 1/3 fewer physical switches, and vastly reduced cabling. Plexxi HCN’s awareness of the environment enabled the customer to simplify infrastructure management, as well as optimize their VDI performance and scale. With Plexxi, they were able to increase the number of supported desktops from 4,000 to over 20,000 and improve desktop boot times by 5x. And, based on their Plexxi experience to date, they are confident now that they have built a solid foundation for future growth, which they expect to be significant.

So, if you have plans to deploy HCI or VDI in your datacenter, you should seriously consider Plexxi HCN.  It can lower networking costs significantly by eliminating the need for expensive spine layer switches, complex two-tier cabling, and the need to manage multiple, per-workload networks. And, as new applications are deployed on your HCI infrastructure, the burden on the network will only grow. You want a network infrastructure that was designed for performance and scale.  You want a network that through application integration, can automatically configure itself to the requirements of the HCI environment. You want a network that can reliably support the HCI environment without the overhead and costs associated with traditional enterprise networks.

Try us out and you will discover why Plexxi is simply a better network for HCI.

 

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