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Why are Data Center Switches on the Rise?

By: Blair Felter on March 1, 2018

The market for data center switches is approaching $14 billion with no signs of stopping. Some industry experts predict that the switch market will eclipse $17 billion in the next five years. What’s driving the growth of data center switches?

First and foremost, the demand for cloud services has skyrocket in recent years. Many of these cloud services come in the form of web applications. Of course, internet multimedia content has also exploded, forcing businesses to find solutions to store such large data content. And to meet these needs, data centers have looked for ways to simplify and automate their data management.

Changes in the Design of Data Centers

Until recently, data centers typically relied solely on access switches and 1G Ethernet ports to connect servers to the rest of the network. But over the last few years, data centers’ server architecture advanced to incorporate storage area networks (SANs) and meet the demands of virtualization.

Now, data centers use a three-tiered design that leverages core, distribution and access switches to connect devices and layers across its infrastructure. Core switches connect to other core switches and those in the distribution tier. Distribution switches also connect to access switches, which then connects the data center to servers, computers and other devices.

With these design developments, the need for these new, high-performance switches has subsequently risen. These switches allow for connectivity using both standard LAN Ethernet and SAN protocols. And they offer the physical port capacity and throughput needed for north-south and east-west traffic flows.

The Types of Switches Driving Demand

As virtualization continues to take over the computing world, the growth of data centers themselves has boomed in tandem. Ethernet switches present a convenient solution to data centers in need of increasing their connectivity requirements, providing greater bandwidth, high performance and scalability. Thus, Ethernet data center switches have grown rapidly. And 100 Gbps Ethernet switches have been in especially high demand thanks to the increasing need to manage internet multimedia content and web applications.

Access switches are growing the fastest in this market, however. Providing wide network connectivity to distribution layers and varying end users, access switches are not as powerful as core and distribution switches. However, access switches need a greater number of ports in order to transfer data between layers or networks and maintain load balance and ensure connectivity between servers and networks.

Exploding Demand in Asia-Pacific

The Asia-Pacific region has driven much of the growth for the switch market. Chinese, Japanese, Singaporean and Indian governments have invested heavily in technological development. These countries have experienced a rapid growth in internet use amongst its citizens. And with the number of small- to mid-sized businesses in this region that have adopted digital technology, the demand for cloud-based services and data centers has grown rapidly. Of course, these data centers require high performing switching solutions across their network infrastructure.

Clearly, there are many reasons for the growing use of data center switches. How they’re deployed depends on the needs of each data center, however. Many such companies are leveraging multi-cloud architecture.

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