Dell will flesh out its new virtual networking strategy at Interop next month when it shows off a 40-Gigabit Ethernet switch for its PowerEdge M1000e blade system announced Tuesday, extends its management software and shows its equipment working with the OpenFlow standard for SDN (software-defined networking).
The company's once-lackluster networking business got a shot in the arm last year with the acquisition of Force10 Networks, which was a pioneer in 10-Gigabit Ethernet and is marching quickly into networking's next frontier, 40-Gigabit. Force10 is now integrated into Dell, and the new parent company is offering an architecture to handle connectivity all the way from virtualized applications and storage through network switches, said Arpit Joshipura, head of marketing at Dell Networking.
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Dell plans to accommodate both emerging virtualized network technology and traditional box-oriented infrastructures with its Virtual Network Architecture (VNA), announced last month, which encompasses everything from packet switching and network services to policy control and management. VNA separates both basic networking protocols and services such as security and load-balancing from the underlying hardware that typically carries them out, though it doesn't require a hard changeover from existing systems. It is built around a "distributed core" of smaller switches rather than the large chassis-based network gear from rivals such as Cisco, Dell said.
Combining that architecture with the rest of the company's sprawling portfolio, Dell says it can provide enterprises with storage, computing and networks with at least 10-Gigabit speed from end to end. And through automation, Dell intends to make it easier to manage networks.
"My view of networking is, it should be as simple as servers," Joshipura said.
On Tuesday, the company is set to introduce the Dell Force10 MXL 10/40GbE switch, the first product to bring a Force10 switch into a Dell blade chassis. The MXL is a Layer 2 and Layer 3 routing switch with performance and features similar to Force10's S4810 data-center top-of-rack switch. It has 32 dedicated internal 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports and can be configured with as many as 24 uplink ports of 10-Gigabit Ethernet or six 40-Gigabit Ethernet uplinks.
As many as six of the switches can be logically stacked within one enclosure or across different enclosures and managed as a single device. The switches will be available in the summer and priced between $10,000 and $15,000 depending on configuration and software.
In a blade server chassis, Dell's high-performance switching technology lets more traffic between the blades remain within the chassis, according to Dell. That saves top-of-rack switches higher up in the network hierarchy from dealing with packets that never had to leave the chassis anyway.
The Force10 acquisition made Dell a leading player in 40-Gigabit Ethernet, the standard at the cutting edge of data-center networking. Increasing traffic among virtual machines spread across growing data centers is expected to drive the 40-Gigabit market, but for the next two years, the major trend will be deploying 10-Gigabit Ethernet, according to Dell'Oro Group analyst Alan Weckel. There were only about 6,600 ports of 40-Gigabit Ethernet sold in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Weckel. Still, he ranked Dell as the biggest vendor in that space.