Data Center World 2022 explored how connectivity is becoming a major factor in the infrastructure of the future. In a discussion, Switch’s Jonathan King and Dell Technologies’ Ihab Tarazi talked about innovations such as silicon photonics, high-speed connectivity, and new switches that are bringing about brand-new data center connectivity options. They also talked about networking becoming software-driven, which is a huge enabler for the edge. Additionally, they discussed the 5G wave and its influence on networking.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Jonathan King: We've talked about the edge in the future. We've talked about the centrality of data, data access, topology, fusion, and best practices to enable it. So, that brings us to a topic that you and I have focused on over the past two decades or longer. We don’t want to date ourselves here. But really, connectivity. So, our next topic is connectivity.
We touched on it a little bit because it’s impossible not to touch on it when you're talking about the edge. Backstage, we were talking about the edge and 5G going hand in hand. And I had an opportunity at Google Cloud to be part of the team working on the establishment of the telecom ecosystem, the edge strategy. And I had been on a journey before that at WWT and Ericsson of having a front-row seat to watch the cloud and the network come together.
I think you attended this year's MWC. This was the first one I missed. I couldn’t make it. One of the things I heard, though, was that one of the themes was the cloud and the network coming together. So, I’m curious to get your perspectives on that. Where do you see that going? There’s so much to talk about with connectivity. That’s just our opening topic.
Ihab Tarazi: Networking is always exciting for me. I still think it’s one of the most exciting parts of the infrastructure now. There’s so much happening in connectivity. I’m just going to hit a few highlights, just to give you a sense.
At the basic optics, an enormous amount of innovation is happening with silicon photonics, high-speed connectivity, 400G, new switches, and new silicon. That's bringing about whole new data center connectivity options that never even existed before. This is all happening as we speak. This whole jump from 100G to 400G is going to happen in the next few years. It’s starting to be discussed in earnest. And I think that's a big next step.
Then, on top of that, networking has become very software driven. Dell Technologies is very engaged in SONiC, one of the biggest projects with many industry players. We started that from the beginning with Microsoft and many others. And it's at a point where it's taking hold. It's a big deal because now you don't have networking bottlenecks. Developers can create all kinds of products and solutions. And I will tell you: It's a huge enabler for the edge. Many of our customers are taking the SONiC software and all these optics to the edge and can put applications on the network switches, which is, you know, opening up all kinds of e-tail applications.
King: Because you’ve heard about it before with NFVi (network functions virtualization infrastructure) and other trends, but now it feels like it's becoming programmable. It's happening.
Tarazi: Yes. And it's happening with the average developer. You don't have to be an expert. Most companies have enough developers to do it. So, that by itself is transformational enough.
But just beyond that, you have the fact that connectivity has now become cloud-like with APIs and being able to connect to multi-cloud with automation anywhere, as well as being able to program connectivity to any big provider with software. Just about everybody has now software-enabled and programmed their networks. So, that also unleashes the ability that we talked about before. Data mobility from the edge to the cloud to the data center is not possible if you don't have all this software, programmability, and high capacity. And again, this is just a continuation of what we've seen with cloud edge deployment. But now it's gone from just for the cloud only what you can program with APIs to anywhere – inside your network to any network provider to anywhere. And we all know SD-WAN is just one more form of that.
So, now the same developer that sets up compute, supporting how you want to support your data storage and mobility, is able with software and cloud-type architecture to now design how you connect. What does that mean? The enormous velocity of movement of data. It's going to start to happen. We'll see it. Now you add to it the 5G wave that is just starting.
King: Slicing. You add that capability where you can slice, you can program.
Tarazi: Big things that were clear at MWC from all the discussions we had, plus from some of the products we showed, is that now you can put 5G on standard compute. This is a big deal. This is as big of a step function for networking as anything we've ever had in the last 20 years. So, when you're able to take applications on standard compute, that means all standard data centers and collocations become destinations for this.
And also the new 5G networks are an ecosystem. It's a multi-cloud ecosystem. So, everybody talks about ecosystems and data centers. We've always talked about enterprise as an ecosystem of multi-cloud, where you want to connect all the clouds. 5G looks like that. So, how about that? The entire global infrastructure of colocation and networking is now a deployment option for 5G. And there are new, very smart antennas that are disaggregated that can be deployed. And you can put new compute at the bottom of the cell tower. We've deployed that with many big customers. And You've seen that probably in a lot of articles. So, that extends the compute to thousands and thousands of data centers beyond what we have today. Again, same story: It's about data. It's about connectivity. You have to pull a lot of the intelligence out of all these cell towers back to data centers.
So, that’s a lot of stuff. We should have talked less than a year ago!
King: We should have talked less than a year ago, and it was hard in 40 minutes to this cover this. We could have spent 40 minutes on connectivity alone. There's just so much going on in that space.