Wrap-Up: Ethernet Alliance Plugfests: Improving Data Center Bridging One Test at a Time

By Ethernet Alliance

Henry He, Marketing Chair, Ethernet in the Data Center subcommittee, Ethernet Alliance; Technical Product Manager, Ixia

Often, a webinar in our high-tech circle introduces a new technology, explains how it works and illustrates how this new technology improves the data communication segment it serves. It is rare a webinar goes one step ahead to give insight into “how to improve the new technology itself”. This is exactly the subject of the most recent Ethernet Alliance webinar – Ethernet Alliance Plugfests: Improving Data Center Bridging One Test at a Time. 

If you attended the webinar, you learned about how these plugfests control an important piece of the technology adoption puzzle, and how participants can get ahead by bringing their products to these plugfests. If you were not able to attend you can view the recorded version here and I’ll summarize three key points for you.  

First, let’s review the word “plugfest” itself. A plugfest is a multi-vendor interoperability test event where many products are brought together in the same lab at the same time to efficiently test and effectively verify interoperability with other products, both complementary and competing, both existing and to-be-unraveled.

Second, the plugfest plays an important role in expediting the maturity of standards because more often than not, as end users of the standards are building products to standards under development, some bugs in the standards drafts are found and holes from passages are identified. When this occurs, the issues are debated in a neutral environment free of obscurantism, constructive feedback is provided to the standard body in a unified voice free of predilection, and the participants of the plugfest get a first stab at rectifying the issues ahead of the next standard revision. 

Third, there are short-term and long-term benefits to be consumed by participating in the plugfests. Equipment manufacturers have the rare opportunity to test their products against many others within a very short span of time, fix problems on the spot, and walk away with a highly interoperable product by the end of the week. That’s the short-term benefit. The long-term benefit is a better product for the operators, a better solution for the industry, and a better user experience with the new technology.

In the aggressive effort to consolidate data centers worldwide, no company is too big to be careless about interoperability. The fundamental foundation to the consolidated data center is the union of historically disparate networks and products. Data center bridging promises to unify protocols and technologies that formerly ran independently with a common backbone. Having one network will lower capex and opex for IT managers. Data center Ethernet plugfests sponsored by the Ethernet Alliance will be an important catalyst to insure that the various products on the market will be interoperable.