With servers in a datacenter, the cost of unnecessarily replacing all equipment when you only need to replace one component becomes unwieldy. But with software-defined infrastructure, physical components can be upgraded as needed.

Suppose that one particular part of your system—any system, be it a computer, car, or house—needs to be replaced. Often, that component can’t be upgraded all by itself so you might end up replacing other related components that are still perfectly usable.

A vicious cycle

For instance, you can’t install central air conditioning without upgrading your electrical system. You can’t add a high-end speaker to your stereo without first upgrading your amp. Before you know it, you’re spending money you never meant to spend. The process of choosing the right amount of pre-emptive spending (capex) in these situations is called lifecycle maintenance.

On most personal computers, lifecycle maintenance is easy but highly inefficient. When you need a new CPU, you buy a new computer. And when you need a greater RAM capacity, you also buy a new computer. When your hard drive fails, you…buy a new computer.

Cables and standards

With servers in a datacenter, the situation is similar. But at scale, the cost of unnecessarily replacing all that equipment becomes unwieldy. And one of the components that has to be regularly upgraded in a datacenter is the cable. As the bit rate increases, cables must be upgraded to handle the new throughput.

Right now, in 2016, 100 gigabits is the fastest Ethernet bit rate standard. This year datacenter operators can their cables to accommodate it. In a few years, there will be a faster Ethernet standard, and those cables will have to be replaced. But there’s one type of cable that won’t have to be replaced any time soon: fiber-optic cable, which in some cases carries data at a Terabit rate.

Adding fiber

Ericsson’s Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000 utilizes fiber-optic cable for an optical backplane, allowing physically separate components to work together via software-defined infrastructure (SDI).

With SDI, physical components can be upgraded as needed, without discarding still-useful components that might normally be attached. And the fiber-optic cable has a capacity so far above the current throughput that it won’t have to be replaced for several generations of memory, storage, and networking components.

Watch me discuss the implications of SDI and the optical backplane in this interview with Rick Ramsey.



For more on optical networking, check out our paper on combining optical and packet switching:

Download the paper


For More Information

You can find out more about Ericsson Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000 here:

Cloud Infrastructure

Howard Wu

Howard Wu is the Head of Product Line Software Defined Infrastructure for Business Unit IT & Cloud Products at Ericsson. Howard joined Ericsson in 2014. He has a long standing career in technology having worked from hardware manufacturing to software services in countries from China, Canada, US and Sweden. Howard founded Layerboom in 2009 and was acquired by Joyent, a US leading cloud service provider in 2010. Since the acquisition, Howard acted as General Manager for Joyent Canada and later President of Greater China for Joyent prior to joining Ericsson. Throughout his career, Howard has driven successful outcomes through strong team cultures built around collaboration, understanding and meeting business needs while continuing to drive the best in class technology forward.

Howard Wu