Can Wireless Networks Make Cabling Obsolete?

Wireless networks have long been used to transmit data about temperatures and power usage within data center environments. But can wireless technology replace the network cabling used to connect servers, racks and switches?

Wireless networks have long been used to transmit data about temperatures and power usage within data center environments. But can wireless technology replace the network cabling used to connect servers, racks and switches? That's the question at the heart of a research experiment at Microsoft, which was featured this weekend by the New York Times.

A team from the Mobile Computing Research Center at Microsoft Research has set up a testbed to explore the use of hgh frequency (60 gighertz) radio band to transfer large volumes of data between servers. The team built a system with tiny directional antennas at the top of each rack to send and receive data. This design sped up traffic by at least 45 percent in 95 percent of the cases tested, Microsoft researcher Daniel Halperin told the Times.

The research is intriguing, but wireless data center networking will be a tough sell to many network administrators, who are likely to have doubts about the performance, reliability and security of such a system. While acknowledging some of the shortcomings of wireless networks, The Times story differentiates between the technology being tested by Microsoft and the sometimes erratic performance of "can you hear me now?" wireless networks for consumers.

See the New York Times for the full story.

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