Force10 Networks Debuts All-10Gig Chassis Switch


Offers adaptive networking for datacentre automation, and claims the industry’s lowest power consumption per line-rate port.

Force10 Networks said its high-end ExaScale 10Gigabit switch-routers will enable adaptive datacentres to virtualise and adjust their networks to cope with changing workloads, as well as adjusting their virtualised servers and storage.

The new ExaScale E600 and E1200 switches are based on the third generation of Force10’s proprietary silicon and also incorporate its switch virtualisation and consolidation technology, said Steve Garrison, the company’s marketing VP.

The larger ExaScale E1200 supports up to 140 line-rate or non-blocking 10G SFP+ ports in one $89,000 half-rack chassis, with a fully-loaded version working out at $7500 per line-rate port. It has a total switch fabric capacity of 3.5Tbit/s, more than double the capacity of Force10’s previous TeraScale generation, and each of its 14 slots has 125Gbit/s of capacity – or 250Gbit/s full-duplex – making it 100G-ready, Garrison said.

He added that ExaScale also offers the industry’s lowest power consumption per 10G fibre port, at 34W. In tests, equivalent datacentre switches from Brocade and Cisco consumed from twice to five times as much per port, he claimed.

Higher port density means datacentres can do more with fewer boxes, Garrison said. He noted that higher density over-subscribed cards are under development, which will allow each chassis to support many more 10G connections in environments where non-blocking links aren’t essential.

Garrison said that while many in the network industry have in the past regarded Force10 as a high-end niche player, that’s now turning into an advantage as the demands of business computing rise.

“People used to say we were pigeonholed in high-performance computing, but the rest of the world has caught up with the pigeonhole,” he said.

“Our HPC experience means we now understand the requirements of the new commercial datacentre – we understand non-blocking networks, and datacentre automation techniques such as scheduling algorithms and tools.”

In particular, he said the new ExaScale switches support both Force10’s VirtualControl partitioning software, enabling one physical switch to act as several logical switches, and its VirtualScale network virtualisation software, which can consolidate several physical network fabrics into one logical network.

Datacentre orchestration tools can then take those capabilities and use them to move virtual LANs around as needed, adding and removing network resources in response to rising and falling demand, just as they add and remove virtual machines to server pools.

Garrison said Force10 will work with management software developers, such as HP Opsware, IBM Tivoli and Scalent, to get their tools working with its switches so they can reallocate bandwidth, change priorities and security policies, and so on. It already has a partnership with resource orchestration specialist Cassatt, he noted.

“Our aim is a fungible, tailorable, flexible datacentre, the same as the others,” he said, “but we’re going to do it with partners, whereas Cisco with its Unified Computing strategy wants to do it all itself.”