Industry Quick to Adopt and Deploy New Hybrid Switching in Data Centers

Achievement date: 

The fast growth of online video and handheld computing has placed vast new demands on data centers, generating immediate industry interest in high-speed hybrid switching demonstrated by researchers at the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) with headquarters at the University of Arizona.


Companies are quickly developing products for hybrid switching and large-scale deployments are expected this year (2014). They include vendor Calient, a company inspired by the CIAN results and that recently joined CIAN’s Industrial Advisory Board. A former chair of the CIAN data center working group recently joined Google to help develop its data center networking, and a former student on the project recently founded a start-up to develop commercial control plane software for hybrid switching in data centers.


Applications such as data analytics require processing on very large data sets and are driving larger amounts of traffic that remains inside data centers—so-called east-west traffic, as opposed to north-south traffic that leaves and enters the data center. As the amount of data moving inside a data center increases, the network must support higher volumes of traffic in order to maintain a fast response time. At high enough speeds, the electronic switching becomes a bottleneck due to power demands and cost. Optical switching, used together with electronic processing, can relieve much of this bottleneck. This means more information from data centers at constant or faster speeds.

Investigators in the CIAN ERC pioneered the concept of hybrid switching in data centers, which took the community by storm after testbed demonstration. The experiments quickly established that vastly higher speeds are possible through the new hybrid configuration of optical switches combined with electronic switches.