Data center technology moves quickly. With the emergence of wide-scale cloud computing over the past decade, enterprises have constructed new facilities and adopted cutting-edge equipment to keep up with demand and/or worked with managed services providers to receive capacity through colocation sites.

Virtualization drives strong growth of data center networking market
Last year, MarketsandMarkets estimated that the data center networking market alone could top $21 billion by 2018 as virtualization and specific technologies such as 40 Gigabit Ethernet continue to gain traction. Rather than rely on legacy physical switches that are challenging to upgrade and scale, enterprises are turning to virtual alternatives.

Virtualizing the network makes equipment and services much easier to modify. Since the fundamental advantage of cloud computing is the ability to get resources on demand, such extensibility is critical for helping companies keep pace with changing requirements.

"Virtualization being a disruptive technology is one of the major driving factors in [the] data center networking market," MarketsandMarkets analyst Neha Sinha told Network Computing. "The adoption of high-performance virtual switches is critical to support increasing number of virtual machines used in multi-tenant data centers. The virtual switches include programmatically managed and extensible capabilities to connect the virtual machines to both physical and virtual networks."

Down the road, such interest in mixing and matching legacy, physical and virtual assets may lead organizations to take up software-defined networking. This practice entails managing network services in a more intelligent, CPU-centric way.

However, SDN is still over the horizon for many companies right now. Both the use case and the underlying technology are not widely understood. Plus, enterprises are still trying to accrue enough personnel expertise in areas such as server virtualization to give them a solid foundation for future modifications of their networks and data centers.

Facebook announces open source data center switch
The demand for higher data center efficiency is unabating, and tech giants such as Facebook are looking to get in on the action. PCWorld reported that the social network has confirmed an open source switch, released through the Open Compute Project, that could challenge longstanding incumbents such as Cisco.

Facebook's switch is a top of the rack appliance that connects servers to other data center infrastructure. It has 16 individual 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The endpoint is designed for maximum flexibility for developers and data center operators, and it may contribute to broader efforts to make infrastructure more flexible.