Data center efficiency is a hot topic as enterprises add more servers and make them into virtual servers to squeeze as much processing power as possible from their infrastructure. Network scalability is a critical success factor in this evolution, and switch chips from Intel® are playing an expanding role in making possible large-scale data center networking.


Highly scalable networks are critical to both the cost effectiveness and the performance of server installations. The networking industry is converging on the “fat-tree” architecture as the way to build data center networks that provide scalability and fine-grain fault protection. Fat-tree networks are flat and provide any-to-any connectivity. Intel’s low latency Ethernet switch chips are built to meet the needs of large-scale data center networking.


For example, our first-generation, 24-port, Intel® FM2000 series 10 Gbps Ethernet switches pioneered the notion of building low-latency, non-blocking fat tree networks using Ethernet. These layer-2 switches feature latency of 200 nS and can be used in two-tier networks that can scale to 288 10 GbE ports. In the second-generation, layer-3 Intel® FM4000 series switch ICs, we dramatically improved the efficiency of distributing flows to minimize hot spots, while also implementing in-band management. While scalability was maintained at up to 288-port fat trees, all of these innovations dramatically improved the performance of the data center fabric and set the stage for the third-generation Intel® FM6000 series.


With the Intel FM6000 series switches, latency is the same, port count (or the radix of a scalable fabric) has tripled to 72 ports and we’ve made further improvements for performance and scalability of the fabric, delivering up to 2500 non-blocking 10 Gbps ports in the same two-tier fat tree structure. Additional Intel FM6000 features include programmable hash algorithms with multiple active profiles, enhanced in-band management, 10 Gbps serial links with embedded PHYs, robust congestion management, and programmable tunneling capabilities. Others in the industry may claim that the only way to achieve scale is with proprietary fabrics; we have proven that it’s possible with plain old Ethernet.


Scalability is a critical issue and Intel is delivering it in a way that will enable Ethernet to power the next great generation of high scale data centers.