The 40-Gigabit Ethernet ports in the MXL switch can be used to link the blade server chassis to a top-of-rack switch using fewer cables than with 10-Gigabit, reducing complexity and port count, Joshipura said.
Dell hopes to place itself at the cutting edge of virtualized networking, too, demonstrating interoperability with a SDN controller from Big Switch Networks. Big Switch makes controllers that use OpenFlow, the SDN standard from the Open Networking Foundation that is shaking up the networking industry. Software-defined networking puts all the important decision-making in networking into software that can run on standard servers, leaving networking devices to carry out the simple, fast task of moving packets.
Though Dell's VNA will work with OpenFlow, Joshipura said that standard can't carry out some of the functions that are possible through VNA, such as automatically provisioning virtual LANs when virtual machines are moved from one physical server to another.
The concentration of enterprise intelligence in data centers, and the consolidation of data centers through cloud computing, could give Dell a chance to shine in networking, Dell'Oro analyst Weckel said. Unlike in the past, almost all the growth in Ethernet switching over the next five years will be in gear for data centers, he said. The battle for new business is coming to Dell's home turf.
"We should expect some fairly violent and significant share shift over the next two years," Weckel said. However, dominant networker Cisco, which is simultaneously gaining ground in the server business, isn't on the verge of giving up its leadership, he added. "If Dell is taking share, it's going to be at the detriment of HP or Juniper or Brocade, probably not so much at the detriment of Cisco," Weckel said.
Among other networking announcements on Tuesday, Dell is also introducing enhancements to the Dell Force10 Operating System that are designed primarily for the S4810 top-of-rack switch. One new feature is the ability to automatically provision virtual LANs, with no manager intervention, when virtual machines have been moved within the network.