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Xsigo pushes server fabric pill for cable and adaptor bloat

Wants to get data centres hooked on cabling clutter cleanup

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Venture capital-funded startup Xsigo is looking to its latest Data Centre Fabric (DCF) version to become its killer product. The kit is aimed at bloated data centres, where it will remove network cable and adapter sprawl and channel I/O to servers running any of five hypervisors across a 56gig InfiniBand link.

The idea is that as physical servers and virtual machines multiply, so too do the network connections to them – the cables and adapters – leading to rack clutter and cabling hell. By plugging the connections into an intelligent fabric instead, they can be virtualised and shared between the servers and virtual machines.

The actual links needed across the fabric are defined by software. Xsigo's pitch is that its fabric – unlike Cisco's, for example – is open and, unlike HP's Virtual Connect, allows heterogeneous servers join in the fabric. Xsigo CEO Lloyd Carney said Xsigo's product "lets data centre managers use existing server, virtualisation, and storage equipment and gives them the freedom to choose the best vendor in the future.”

DCF has three main components:

  • The Fabric Director, which is hardware and software for building fabrics using both 10G Ethernet or InfiniBand. It supports Fibre Channel connections to existing SANs.
  • The Fabric Manager, which manages all the I/O connections in a data centre from a single graphical interface. It works with X86 servers, storage, and network equipment from multiple vendors.
  • The Fabric Accelerator, which is software to manage Ethernet and Fibre Channel traffic within the fabric.

New features include:

  • support for five hypervisors: Citrix Xen, Hyper-V, Oracle Virtual Machine, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation, and VMware vSphere;
  • support for HP Gen 8, Dell 12th Generation, and IBM M4 series servers;
  • 56Gbit/s InfiniBand support and a new 4 x 10Gbit/s Ethernet module; and
  • a software performance manager.

It's inevitable that if you insert a product between servers and their networked connections you face the need for it to be upgraded to support new servers at the front end and new connectivity options at the backend. Xsigo says this will be bearable for its customers because of the benefits they get.

Andy Beech, IT ops manager at Farrer and Company made Xsigo's pitch for it: "“Xsigo Data Centre Fabric enabled [us] to … move away from an inflexible hardwired solution. Prior to Xsigo, each server had direct-attached storage and ran a specific application." Now they don't, sharing storage instead.

Xsigo says its DCF is a software-defined network (SDN), and so it is – but only in a server area sense. It's generally not being the sort of network people have in mind when they think about SDNs. That's astute marketing by Xsigo.

There are some 300 Xsigo fabric deployments and a recent one was a 55,000 seat VDI fabric at Royal Bank of Scotland by Fujitsu. Xsigo is clearly hooping the server fabric idea rides the virtual server wave, becomes hugely popular application and carries it to fame and fortune. ®

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