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Leaf-spine networks take the lead

Leaf-spine networks are replacing traditional three-layer designs. Get the basics explained here.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Modern Infrastructure: Cloud migration confidential:

Leaf-spine networks are poised to take over from traditional three-layer designs. 

Leaf-spine has made inroads in modern data centers, favored for responding better to changing data traffic patterns.

Expert Ethan Banks, founder of the Packet Pushers podcast, explains how leaf-spine works and how it’s different from three-layer models.

The traditional three-layer model is familiar to many networking pros.

Leaf-spine network design may look similar to three-layer designs, with more switches on the spine layer. But all links are used to forward traffic.

Leaf-spine networks do have shortcomings, one of which is possible oversubscription between network layers.

Figure 1. The traditional, three-layer network design
Figure 1. The traditional, three-layer network design


Figure 2. A small leaf-spine network
Figure 2. A small leaf-spine network


Figure 3. Oversubscription between network layers
Figure 3. Oversubscription between network layers

Next Steps

Read Ethan’s full article on leaf-spine network topologies

This was last published in September 2014

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Figure #3 is wrong. You need 4 x spine switches to get 3:1 oversuscription ratio using 40G interfaces..