Dell EMC Continues Its Push Toward Open Networking Portfolio

At its user conference, the company unveils new switches and services aimed at helping enterprises adopt network virtualization technologies.

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LAS VEGAS—Dell EMC is continuing to expand the open networking push that began three years ago with new switches that feature the latest version of the company's network operating system, as well as new services designed to help enterprises embrace open and software-defined networking environments.

On the opening day of the Dell EMC World 2017 show here May 8, Dell EMC executives unveiled the S5100-ON series in-rack and S4100-ON series top-of-rack switches, which deliver greater capacity and options than their predecessors. In addition, both are the first to run Dell EMC's OS10 Enterprise Edition, an open networking OS that uses open-source technologies from the Open Compute Project and the Linux Foundation.

In addition, the vendor rolled out the N1100-ON series, a lineup of highly energy- and cost-efficient switches that are aimed at campus networks. The products support the growing trend toward wireless workplaces, which are driven by the internet of things (IoT) and the demand from increasingly mobile workforces.

The new offerings give Dell EMC a much more complete lineup of offerings in its Open Networking portfolio. The company launched the Open Networking initiative in 2014 as the network virtualization trend—which includes software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV)—began taking hold in data centers as enterprises sought ways to make their networking infrastructure more agile, programmable, flexible and cost-effective.

The goal is to offer businesses networking hardware based on open standards and merchant silicon from the likes of Intel, Cavium and Broadcom that can run a number of different networking OSes to give customers more options. The Open Networking switches can run not only Dell EMC's OS10, but also networking software stacks from Pluribus Networks, Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks.

OS10 offers Layer 2 and 3 network features. In addition, with the product's open nature, businesses can customize the software for particular workloads and integrate other open-source functionality or third-party Linux software, or they can develop their own applications using Linux and DevOps tools.

Benefits of Open Networking Offerings

The move to open networking also was a way to address the threat of low-cost white boxes from original design manufacturers (ODMs), which threaten traditional networking vendors with less pricey, less complex systems. The Open Networking offerings from Dell EMC are less expensive than OEM proprietary systems and more expensive than ODM white boxes. However, Dell EMC officials point out that along with the extra cost, end users get the comfort of having branded hardware from a top-tier vendor, as well as access to Dell EMC's support and services.

The effort also is about enabling customers to build a flatter and more virtual networking infrastructure, according to Jeff Baher, senior director, product and technical marketing, Dell EMC Networking and Service Provider Solutions. That includes software-based network controllers that can run on industry-standard servers and VMware’s NSX network-virtualization platform, as well as a range of options around virtual switches and rack and top-of-rack switches, Baher told eWEEK.

During Dell EMC World, David Goulden, president of Dell EMC, said that the company partners with network vendors like Cisco Systems and Arista Networks in traditional data center environments but adds that the growing drive toward SDN and NFV, as well as emerging trends like the IoT, is causing more businesses to embrace open networking. That's the area that Dell is targeting, he said.

"Open networking is growing very rapidly," Goulden said.

The S5100-ON switch supports 25 Gigabit Ethernet networking—more than twice the throughput of 10GbE from current switches. That support for 25GbE mirrors the support of the company's new 14th-generation PowerEdge servers, which also were introduced at the show and will be available during the summer.

In addition, the switches provided 100GbE uplinks for 100GbE fabric connectivity, which speeds up east-west network traffic. That's an important factor for enterprises, cloud service providers and web companies looking to drive application performance.

Top-of-Rack Switches for High-Density Environments

The S4100-ON series are top-of-rack switches for high-density environments that use 10GbE fiber or copper, or Fibre Chanel 8/16/32 server and converged LANs and SANs within racks. The switches also bring 100GbE uplink ports and include the S4148U switch for both Ethernet and Fibre Channel to increase the number of storage solutions Dell EMC switches can support.

The N1100-ON series lineup includes some fanless switches at half- and full-width form factors, power-over-Ethernet (POE and POE+) and port configurations that range from 10/100/1000 Mb/s to 10GbE. The products also come with Aerohive’s HiveManager NG management solution, and they complement the new N3100-ON and N2100-ON switches, which target larger campus networks.

Dell EMC also is offering NFV Advisory Services and IoT Technology Advisory Services to make it easier for businesses to plan their adoption of network virtualization and to determine what their architectures will need in order to take advantage of the data from various IoT devices, such as sensors, wearables, mobile phones and other connected devices.

The IoT services are available now and the NFV services and switches will be available later in the year.