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Updated 7 November 2018

“Simulating Data Center Networks”

Ariel Hendel, Infrastructure Technologist

Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, California, USA



The massive scale of Compute and Storage capacity designed and deployed by Mega Data Center operators has naturally attracted much attention.

In terms of efficiency improvements in all its engineering aspects, be it power distribution, cooling, optimal compute building blocks, selective use of DRAM, flash, and spinning media for different storage tiers, and the network that binds all parts together.

At such scale efficiency matters a lot. Unlike other technology innovations, operators view these efficiency gains as benefitting the industry in general and have collaborated to share them across the entire ecosystem and supply chain for example within the Open Compute Project (OCP).

Ultimately the services hosted in Data Centers, owned by the Operator or not, come from semiconductors in the form of Processors, Memory subsystems, Non-Volatile Memories, I/O interfaces, and network switches. The innovation in such semiconductors has been the fuel behind the increase in Data Center Capacity applied to growing services.

We postulate that the efficiency gains, applied so far to system level aspects, may be getting into diminishing returns. However, semiconductor innovation has been limited to process transitions per Moore’s law, more than architectural innovation. Arguably architectural and certainly algorithmic innovation for compute and storage endpoints can be pursued at small scale, and then be deployed at scale. This is much harder to do for networking.

We combine the above observations, with some recent network simulation work we performed to suggest a path forward. The development of a multi-party network simulation framework that can model a Data Center network and its endpoints at Data Center scale, and to apply such a framework to drive semiconductor level innovation either at the component level, or even at the functional block level.

In our talk we present the driving forces behind the idea, some partial work done that leads us to our larger vision, and the role we see for technologists and academia joining and driving this vision forward.


Check Multicore World 2018 abstracts here

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