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Ethernet fabric

Ethernet fabric definition

Ethernet fabric is a network setup that connects network nodes in a way that they act like a single switch. It’s popular in data centers and large businesses with a lot of network traffic and a need for reliable service. Ethernet fabric is designed to be flexible and efficient, making it easier to manage how data moves and connects within the network.

See also: Ethernet, switching fabric, software-defined networking

Ethernet fabric components

  • Switches and routers. These are the fundamental building blocks of any network, including Ethernet fabric. Here, they're tailored to ensure speed and reliability while handling lots of data.
  • Networking protocols. Ethernet fabric relies on specific protocols to support its dynamic and efficient topology. They include TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links) and SPB (Shortest Path Bridging). These protocols help in choosing the best paths for data, balancing network load, and increasing reliability.
  • Fabric controllers. These are special software or hardware components that control and organize the network fabric. They set up the network automatically, direct data traffic, and ensure strong performance. Fabric controllers are often a key part of the software-defined networking (SDN) approach.
  • Software-defined networking (SDN). While not exclusive to Ethernet fabric, SDN is often integrated with it. It allows network managers to use software for more flexible control than traditional hardware setups.

Key characteristics of Ethernet fabric

  • Scalability. Ethernet fabric can grow to support more connected devices and network traffic. This scalability is important in data centers where the network must adapt to changing demands.
  • High performance and low latency. Ethernet fabric is designed to provide fast data transfers and low network congestion. It achieves that by optimizing data paths and using bandwidth efficiently.
  • Automated management. One of the key features of Ethernet fabric is its ability to automate many network management tasks. This includes automatic configuration, healing, and optimization, making it less complicated to manage.
  • Resilience and reliability. Ethernet fabric architectures are built to be very reliable. The network keeps running smoothly even if there are problems, which is crucial for important data center operations.
  • Simplified architecture. Ethernet has a simpler, less hierarchical structure than traditional networks. This simplification makes it easier to manage and less complex to operate.