Are FabricPath, TRILL or SPB still alive, or has everyone moved to VXLAN? Are they worth studying?
TL&DR: Barely. Yes. No.
Layer-2 Fabric craziness exploded in 2010 with vendors playing the usual misinformation games that eventually resulted in totally fragmented market full of partial- or proprietary solutions. At one point in time, some HP data center switches supported only TRILL, and other data center switches from the same company supported only SPB.
Now for individual technologies:
- I wrote the last major blog post about TRILL in 2012. As Gartner would say, TRILL died before it reached the through of disillusionment1.
- Juniper QFabric was the first to die2. Scaling a centralized control and management plane to 128 switches is a hard task, and even though Juniper might have been best-positioned to make it work (and had decent architecture), in the end they still failed.
- Juniper Virtual Chassis was a lame attempt to make stackable switches work in data center environment, and even Virtual Chassis Fabric couldn’t save the day. Running a single control plane for the whole fabric on an underpowered switch CPU is obviously not a good idea (see also: OpenFlow).
- When Nexus 9000 switches were launched without FabricPath support in 2013, the writing on the wall was very obvious. I wouldn’t be surprised to see FabricPath deployments in the wild, but anyone considering it for a Greenfield deployment should look at the calendar.
- Brocade was the last data center switching vendor worth mentioning that abruptly joined the EVPN/VXLAN lemming run in 2016, dropping VCS Fabric like a steaming pile of ****.
- HP3 was overpromising and underdelivering until they managed to become irrelevant. The were telling us they planned to support TRILL, SPB, and FCoE at Networking Field Day 1 in 2010, and couldn’t deliver a single one of those protocols by the time of Nexus 9000/ACI launch. They did manage to deliver in the end, but it was already too late. According to Philipp, HPE is still selling H3C-developed switches with Comware version 7 that supports VXLAN with EVPN. They also push Aruba switches these days, and while (according to data sheets) they support VXLAN/EVPN, there’s zero mention of TRILL or SPB.
How about standard-based layer-2 fabric implementations? I’m not aware of anyone (apart from HPE) ever implementing TRILL4. Avaya had interesting SPBM implementation (more details), and they’re still selling SPBM switches under the Extreme brand. I’ve heard someone mentioning a SP-focused vendor (Alcatel Lucent?) using SPB in Carrier Ethernet implementations a while ago, but I never looked at the details.
I probably missed a few things, in which case a comment from someone with more details (preferably with links to product documentation) would be most welcome.
- Added more information on HPE data center switches
- Added a footnote pointing to a TRILL implementation.
More precisely, a migration document from 2019 says “Juniper Networks continues to support QFabric Systems, but many of the hardware devices in QFabric Systems have reached end of life (EOL) status.” ↩︎
An entity now known as HPE because someone realized pouring huge profits from toner packages into developing products that consistently stay in the “others” category in industry surveys makes no sense. I couldn’t figure out what happened with H3C, the company developing the data center switches HP/HPE was selling under their own brand until the Aruba acquisition. ↩︎