Tuesday, October 19, 2010

IBM to Sell Force10's Top-of-Rack Switch

By David Gross

Lots of interesting things happening in the Top-of-Rack (ToR) switch market.   Last week, Extreme Networks (EXTR) showcased a demo of it ToR switch running a 40 Gigabit Ethernet link in a supercomputing network, while BLADE Network Technologies, soon to be part of IBM (IBM), announced a new ToR product which offers 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports.   Not to be forgotten, Force10 Networks announced that it will be selling its S60 ToR switch through IBM. 

Force10 has a well-established relationship with IBM, centered around its high-end E series switches that are used in data center cores and supercomputing clusters.   While some core router/switch vendors, notably Juniper (JNPR), have entered the ToR market by OEM'ing other suppliers' products, the S60 appears to be home grown, and runs Force10's FTOS software.  

Like other ToR switches, the S60 is designed around price/performance, not a wide selection of configuration options.   10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks are available as an option, using SFP+ transceivers, and LAN PHY framing, which is essential not just for short reach but to keep costs down, as 10G WAN PHY ports remain more expensive than the 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports on BLADE's and Extreme Networks' ToR switches.   The reason the S60 does not feature 40 Gigabit ports is that it is more of an entry-level product than the others, with a send and receive throughout capacity of 136 Gbps, compared to 1.2 Tbps (Terabits) for the BLADE box.    And while ToR switches are not overloaded with software features, all three vendors support IPv6.

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