The InfoWorld Test Center's 10-Gig switch-off
High-end networking gear from Hewlett-Packard and Extreme Networks prove their enterprise worth in a grueling gauntlet challengeFollow @infoworld
That’s not to say that HP’s solution was unpolished: Setting up an advanced switching topology in what amounts to a single day is a solid achievement for any platform. But Extreme really nailed it. These products clicked together like well-oiled machines — so well that we were completely through our baseline testing on the very first day.
And Extreme didn’t skimp in the equipment department, either. Cores came in the form of the behemoth BlackDiamond 10808. The reason for bringing these massive chassis was obvious: Extreme designed this model from the ground up as an all-10GbE switch. The 10808 has it all: an ultrafast switching fabric capable of about 1.28Tbps of capacity via a high-performance custom programmable ASIC architecture, support for as many as 480 10/100/1000 (or 480 fiber 1GbE ports) or as many as 48 10GbE ports.
Finally, there’s the simple, pleasing hardware of the 10808. If you can get past the fact that Hulk Hogan could throw his back out trying to move the thing, you’ll find that all this weight has advantages, namely support for redundancy at every turn: power supplies, management cards, line cards, the works. Additionally, the prospect of tossing in extra-large power supplies is valuable to those looking to deploy PoE (Power of Ethernet) further down the line, similar to HP’s equipment.
For the edge, Extreme brought the BlackDiamond 8810. Whereas HP likes to keep much of its switching intelligence at the edge, Extreme very much prefers to do it at the core — hence the 10808’s advanced ASIC architecture, which is not to be found on the 8810; the edge switch definitely takes its cues from big daddy. At its intended chore, port distribution, however, the 8810 has few peers. The box can handle as much as 570Mbps worth of throughput and can take as many as 432 Gigabit ports or 36 10-Gig ports per chassis.
But Extreme’s greatest advantage, next to the purple hue of its hardware, is its switch operating system, called EXOS (ExtremeXOS). Extreme made the move to an embedded Linux operating system several years ago, and it was a smart play. Extreme has optimized EXOS for multicast and voice applications with full routing capabilities. Furthermore, Extreme has enabled these functions to run on dedicated ASIC silicon, allowing the switch to process packets with little or no overhead load. The switch is a security monger, too, with a rules-based threat detection and response engine, attack throttling, and 802.1x authentication support across the entire switching fabric, and even an optional add-on security device, called the Sentriant.
A few notable features of EXOS include the new Clear-Flow rules-based monitoring engine, the universal port manager capable of accessing non-Extreme gear, and a flexible set of XML-based APIs for OS customization or integration of third-party software packages. The company also has gone to significant trouble to provide a highly functional management console in the form of EpiCenter. Although our BlackDiamonds had a limited Web-based management GUI, EpiCenter is a dedicated, optional fat-client management package that acts as a rules and policy hub for an entire Extreme installation.
Extreme’s APIs enable third-party software manufacturers to design powerful add-ons to the Extreme line reaching from the management console all the way to the switch ASIC. One company that’s taken Extreme up on this offer, Avaya, has dovetailed its VoIP management console into EpiCenter. This combination offers far more than the usual set of VoIP QoS management features.