Super switches

Foundry, hot on the heels of Extreme and Cisco, has released new mid-end switches designed to cash in on the increasing demand for 10Gigabit capable models.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  February 27, 2005

|~|MajeedFarook_m.jpg|~|“10Gigabit is our sweet spot and the SuperX is positioned as a ‘Cat killer’.” - Farook Majeed, regional director, Foundry Networks.|~|Foundry Networks has released a new range of switches, the SuperX, for the mid-end 10Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) market. The move follows Extreme Networks announcing its Aspen switch range and Cisco revamping its Catalyst switches, both of which are also addressing this growing market. Foundry’s SuperX is designed to cater to companies that face expanding bandwidth needs and offers a high density of 10/100/1000Mbit/s ports coupled with 10Gigabit uplink. The SuperX models can be used as both aggregate and core switches. The move is driven primarily by increased use of Gigabit Ethernet on the desktop, which is cumulatively creating a need for 10Gigabit bandwidth on the backbone. “We are starting to see 10Gigabit hitting a key point, it’s now three or four times the price of Gigabit and this makes it feasible for a lot of companies,” says Bill Ryan, product marketing manager for Foundry Networks. “We except tremendous growth over the next five years and business worth US$1 billion to open up in the next year and a half,” he adds. Research firm the Dell’Oro Group also predicts 10Gigabit port shipments will more than double in each of the next three years. As businesses continue to deploy Gigabit Ethernet in their wiring closets, they will need to aggregate that speed to the core of the network. “We anticipate that the combination of significant declines in the price per 10Gigabit Ethernet port and the widespread adoption of Gigabit Ethernet — both in the enterprise and service provider networks — should result in very strong growth for 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches,” says Seamus Crehan, director of Ethernet Switch Research for Dell’Oro Group. IDC agrees with this general trend and also observes that 10GbE switches are beginning to move out of research and supercomputing environments and into high-end data centres. “In the near term, the most significant revenue impact of 10GbE will be to help drive sales of Gigabit ports in server clusters,” says Joshua Budd, senior analyst, Communications IDC CEMA. “In 2005 and beyond, 10GbE has the potential to complement Fibre Channel in storage networks and grid computing projects as well as drive data centre consolidation and redundancy,” he adds. Foundry has pulled out what it claims are industry leading prices, as well as high port density as two of the key selling points of the SuperX series. The vendor claims the US$2,500 cost per port with the TurnoIron SuperX 10Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) aggregation and core switch is the best on the market. “We can fit eight units in a seven foot chassis, which is a very high density of ports. The SuperX switches are smaller in size than equivalently performing models from other vendors and therefore better suited to the wiring closet environment,” says Ryan. “Also, the mean time between failure (MTBF) is in the 100,000 hour range and the switches are serviceable from the front of the device, which decreases the time needed to repair,” he adds. “10Gigabit is our sweet spot,” continues Farook Majeed, regional director, Foundry Networks. “The SuperX is positioned as a ‘Cat killer’. We had the low-end and high-end offerings and we saw a gap in the middle, which is occupied by Cisco’s Catalyst range. The SuperX is designed to provide no compromise on performance, while coming in at a very attractive price,” he adds. Extreme Networks has also expanded its portfolio of 10GbE capable switching products with its Aspen switching solution. The vendor says the Aspen allows enterprises to adopt a money-saving two tier, as opposed to a multi tier, architecture. The vendor has lauded the two-tier architecture as enabling enterprises to build an open converged network that can easily accommodate new applications, such as voice, while achieving five 9s availability and better levels of security in a simple design. The main benefit of this approach is that it requires fewer network layers and switching elements, which results in a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). There are two schools of thought on network architectures. Two tier has the advantage of doing without switches at the distribution layer which keeps costs down and can also take advantage of the intelligence of edge switches. But for large companies (with around 15,000 users and upwards) a multi-tier network often works best. With large deployments a two-tier architecture could be more complex than necessary and have more core switches than necessary. Therefore, it may be better to have a layer of distribution switches. The Aspen boxes also support Extreme’s Ethernet Automatic Protection Switching (EAPS) protocol, a Layer 2 switching technology developed for metropolitan Ethernet service provider networks. EAPS lets Ethernet switches be configured in a ring, similar to SONET networks, and allows for failover of a link in 50 milliseconds. “In order to provide true universal access Gigabit Ethernet and 10Gigabit Ethernet ports must be wirespeed with and without power over Ethernet (PoE), support wireless, be predictable and be secure,” says Chris Moore, regional manager, Extreme Networks MENA. “Only Extreme can justifiably claim and demonstrate this. Occupying the position of market innovator you should expect to see our per port price reduce over time in line with the high performance market not the commoditised market,” he adds. One of the main drivers for 10Gigabit bandwidth is the increased use of voice over the Ethernet network and this is reflected in the outlook from Foundry, Extreme and Cisco. With voice and data traffic on a single architecture, ensuring a high level of voice performance is essential. This can be done by segmenting voice traffic into separate VLANs, giving them priority and guaranteeing bandwidth. Cisco placed voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to the fore in its recent Catalyst revamp. “A key enhancement included in our announcement is extending what we call the converged port across the switching portfolio,” says John McCool, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Gigabit switching business unit. “This is a port that provides both Gigabit Ethernet speed and Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capabilities. The idea is that customers don’t have to pick one capability over the other,” he adds. Further drivers include applications such as e-learning, video conferencing and multimedia collaboration which require the transport of much larger files across the network. “Healthcare is a good example of a vertical where bandwidth needs are changing,” says McCool. “It is quickly adopting digital image archiving and transport applications for X-rays, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and other diagnostic information. As more and more of these high-resolution, large image files travel on healthcare networks, Gigabit Ethernet will be a necessity,” he adds.||**||

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