c-Through: Part-time Optics in Data Centers

Guohui Wang, David G. Andersen, Michael Kaminsky, Konstantina Papagiannaki, T.S. Eugene Ng, Michael Kozuch, and Michael Ryan
Appears in: 
CCR October 2010

Data-intensive applications that operate on large volumes of data have motivated a fresh look at the design of data center networks. The first wave of proposals focused on designing pure packetswitched networks that provide full bisection bandwidth. However, these proposals significantly increase network complexity in terms of the number of links and switches required and the restricted rules to wire them up. On the other hand, optical circuit switching technology holds a very large bandwidth advantage over packet switching technology. This fact motivates us to explore how optical circuit switching technology could benefit a data center network. In particular, we propose a hybrid packet and circuit switched data center network architecture (or HyPaC for short) which augments the traditional hierarchy of packet switches with a high speed, low complexity, rack-to-rack optical circuit-switched network to supply high bandwidth to applications. We discuss the fundamental requirements of this hybrid architecture and their design options. To demonstrate the potential benefits of the hybrid architecture, we have built a prototype system called c-Through. c-Through represents a design point where the responsibility for traffic demand estimation and traffic demultiplexing resides in end hosts, making it compatible with existing packet switches. Our emulation experiments show that the hybrid architecture can provide large benefits to unmodified popular data center applications at a modest scale. Furthermore, our experimental experience provides useful insights on the applicability of the hybrid architecture across a range of deployment scenarios.