Building Urban Data Center Networks with CloudFabric 3.0

CloudFabric 3.0 overcomes the space and power constraints that limit urban data centers.

By Leon Wang, President, Data Center Network Domain, Data Communication Product Line, Huawei
Huawei Tech Issue 93
Leon Wang

With data as the most important factor of production in the digital era, data centers serve as the sole points for data storage, data analytics, and computing. Underpinning the digitalization of cities, the computing power of data centers and the support of cloud networks impact every aspect of an urban economy, from ubiquitous cloud computing to digital currency and blockchain.

Issued in March 2021, China's 14th Five-Year Plan and Long-Range Objectives for 2035 establishes the requirements for accelerating the construction of new infrastructure such as data centers. In April 2021, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization (SHEITC) and the Shanghai Municipal Development and Reform Commission issued the Notice on Issues Related to the Coordinated Construction of Data Centers in Cities in 2021. This Notice requires the accelerated construction of a data center development landscape that is "focused in terms of functionality, balanced in terms of planning, efficient and green, outstanding in terms of performance, and meets urgent needs," so as to expedite the implementation of the 14th Five-Year Plan.

The dilemma of urban data center construction

The construction and development of data centers in cities cannot break free of two physical constraints: space and power supply. Discrete data centers that take up limited space lead to scattered resources and restricted scalability. As a result, data centers cannot achieve the intensive scale that is expected, decreasing their computing power, while inadequate power supply stops data centers from functioning properly. In recent years, data centers have often been closed due to limited power supply quotas.

The digital economy and digital society rely on computing power, but there is a growing lack of urban resources. So, how can we strike a balance? 

Shanghai has taken the lead in answering this question: First, the city has clearly defined its functional requirements, focusing on what it urgently needs and avoiding what it doesn't. Based on Shanghai's position as a center of economy, finance, trade, shipping, and technological innovation, the city focuses on meeting the computing requirements of its core industries. Second, new data centers are concentrated in key development areas. In consideration of available auxiliary resources, such as land and electricity, data centers are deployed in a way that fully utilizes their intensity and scale. The city also emphasizes energy conservation, requiring that the comprehensive PUE of each new data center is less than 1.3.

Innovative technologies support urban data center construction

In addition to resource and policy guidance, Shanghai is proposing the introduction of new technologies, such as IPv6, lossless networks, and software-defined networking. This will improve data center performance and the utilization of computing power utilization through technological innovation, which is key to the city's data center construction plan.

IPv6 supports ubiquitous connectivity for computing power. The transformation from connectivity for all people to the intelligent connectivity of all things has led to an exponential increase in the demand for IP addresses on networks. Data centers are the computing hubs of the intelligent world, while IPv6 serves as the foundation of connectivity between them. The 14th Five-Year Plan and Long-Range Objectives for 2035 clearly states that "the commercial deployment of Internet Protocol Version 6 (Ipv6) should be comprehensively promoted." Today, numerous data centers are still IPv4-based, meaning smooth evolution from IPv4 to IPv6 has become a core requirement for future data center development. The InfiniBand and Fiber Channel (FC) private network architectures used in traditional high- performance computing and centralized storage are incompatible with IPv6. Therefore, Ethernet will replace private networks.

Lossless Ethernet ensures deterministic computing quality. Data center networks have become increasingly Ethernet-based. In 2019, though the joint efforts of Internet companies, carriers, and ICT vendors, lossless network testing specifications were released and put into commercial use, greatly boosting the development of lossless Ethernet technology. Traditional Ethernet has an average packet loss of 0.1%, while lossless Ethernet has zero packet loss. This eliminates the need for data retransmission, improving server resource utilization. A server cluster using lossless Ethernet can deliver twice the computing power of a regular server cluster of the same size, halving unit power consumption.

Software-defined networking automates the provisioning of computing power. According to the intensive construction policy, a data center should in principle never be less than 3,000 standard racks. When using virtualization technology, it’s possible to manage up to 300,000 nodes. Therefore, it’s vital that the management of data center networks is both automated and intelligent. Some commercial banks in China already require that networks support the closure of service requests on the same day that they are issued. This would be impossible for traditional O&M models, which are characterized by command-line-based manual execution and network changes that typically takes several days.

CloudFabric 3.0 boosts data center development

Huawei's CloudFabric 3.0 Hyper-Converged Data Center Network Solution supports the three key technologies: IPv6, lossless Ethernet, and software-defined networking.

Full IPv6 compatibility: This solution delivers end-to-end IPv6-based data center networking and allows IPv4-based legacy networks to smoothly evolve to IPv6.

Lossless Ethernet: This solution is the first of its kind to achieve zero packet loss over Ethernet, using the innovative iLossless algorithm to break down traditional architectural silos between multiple protocols. This facilitates high-performance computing, storage, and service networks, achieving convergence between physical network protocols.

Intelligent network deployment and O&M: CloudFabric 3.0 is the first solution in the industry to deliver software-defined networking capabilities in L3 autonomous driving networks (ADN). Networks can automatically understand user intention and complete service provisioning in seconds. Network status can be monitored in real time to detect faults in 1 minute, locate them in 3 minutes, and rectify them in 5 minutes.

As the data center construction requirements in the 14th Five-Year Plan and Long-Range Objectives for 2035 are more carefully explored, a number of provinces and cities will issue specific data center construction guidelines. During the construction of the data center computing base, where data is the core factor for production, data center networks will create immense value and potential to enhance computing power. 

Huawei is ready to work with its customers and partners to build urban data centers, develop exemplary use cases, and boost the digital economy and digital society.