Data centers are experiencing a remarkable growth in the number of interconnected servers. Being one of the foremost data center design concerns, network infrastructure plays a pivotal role in the initial capital investment and ascertaining the performance parameters for the data center. Legacy data center network (DCN) infrastructure lacks the inherent capability to meet the data centers growth trend and aggregate bandwidth demands. Deployment of even the highest-end enterprise network equipment only delivers around 50% of the aggregate bandwidth at the edge of network. The vital challenges faced by the legacy DCN architecture trigger the need for new DCN architectures, to accommodate the growing demands of the ‘cloud computing’ paradigm. We have implemented and simulated the state of the art DCN models in this paper, namely: (a) legacy DCN architecture, (b) switch-based, and (c) hybrid models, and compared their effectiveness by monitoring the network: (a) throughput and (b) average packet delay. The presented analysis may be perceived as a background benchmarking study for the further research on the simulation and implementation of the DCN-customized topologies and customized addressing protocols in the large-scale data centers. We have performed extensive simulations under various network traffic patterns to ascertain the strengths and inadequacies of the different DCN architectures. Moreover, we provide a firm foundation for further research and enhancement in DCN architectures. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.