Dell EMC Designs New Networking Switch for Speed, Big Data Centers

The new Dell EMC 2U platform offers 64 100GbE ports and adds to the vendor’s growing lineup of Open Networking products that can run third-party software.

Dell EMC Enterprise Network Switch

Dell EMC is expanding its portfolio of open networking systems to include a 100 Gigabit Ethernet switch designed for Hyperscale data centers  large enterprises and service providers.

The highly dense Z9264F-ON switch, with 64 ports of 100GbE in a 2U (3.5-inch) form factor, is designed to address the rapid changes occurring in data centers and the rising demand for fast 100GbE networking, according to company officials.

With the rise of the cloud computing, greater mobility, the internet of things (IoT), edge computing, along with the adoption of virtualization and automation technologies, the need for faster connectivity between compute system and storage is growing.

At the same time, organizations increasingly look for more software-defined environments, where software is decoupled from hardware and customers have greater choice of what software to run on their data center systems.

“The new Z9264F-ON delivers on that desire, providing our customers with the most capable 100GbE switching platform in the industry and granting our customers maximum control over their network spend and their infrastructure,” Tom Burns, senior vice president and general manager of networking and solutions at Dell EMC, said in a statement.

Dell officials four years ago introduced its Open Networking initiative, building Dell networking gear that could run either the vendor’s own networking software or that from third parties such as Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks. The systems also offer a choice of merchant silicon from Intel, Broadcom and Cavium, whose chips are based on the Arm architecture. Cavium is now owned by Marvell Technology.

Other vendors, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise—with its Altoline switches—and Juniper Networks, now offer similar open networking systems. Such open systems are in line with the software-defined networking (SDN) push, which promises greater flexibility and programmability in the network and enables networking tasks such as load balancing and routing to be done in software that can run on commodity hardware, including low-cost white boxes.

According to Paul Parker-Johnson, principal analyst with ACG Research, open-source networking hardware and software will grow about 40 percent a year through 2023, reaching a point where it will be account for 15 percent of the overall data center switching and routing market.

The demand for speed in the data center also continues to grow as well. According to analysts at IDC, revenue for 100 GbE switches in the first three months of the year grew 83.8 percent over the same time in 2017, to $742 million.

Network port shipments jumped 117.7 percent year-over-year. Only the market for 25GbE switches grew faster, with revenue increasing 176 percent and port shipments up 359 percent, an indication that both 25GbE and 100GbE provided a better price-performance ratio than 40GbE, according to the analysts.

"There are two macro trends that contributed to growth—the emergence of next-generation software-based network intelligence platforms that add to the intrinsic value of networking, and the push by large enterprises, hyperscalers, and service providers to leverage faster Ethernet switching speeds for cloud rollouts,” Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure at IDC, said in a statement. “Both trends bode well for this industry moving forward.”

The Z9264F-ON switch is the latest in Dell EMC’s growing portfolio of Open Networking hardware. The switch is powered by Broadom’s 6.4 Terabit-per-second StrataXGS Tomahawk II chip and is aimed at high-performance data center spine or fabric environments. The switch comes with a range of options, including 64 100GbE or 50GbE ports or 128 25GbE ports.

There also are multiple software options. The Z9264F-ON—which will be on display at the VMworld show in Las Vegas starting Aug. 26 and generally available Aug. 31—can run Dell EMC’s OS10 Open Edition or the open-source version, OS10 Open Edition, which is based on the Linux Foundation’s OpenSwitch software. Other software options include commercial OSes from Big Switch, Cumulus, Pluribus Networks or IP Infusion as well as free versions of OpenSwitch or SONiC from the Open Compute Project.

The open switch combined with software from Dell EMC or partners can create a flexible physical networking environment, according to company officials. Dell EMC also is partnering with VMware—another Dell Technologies company—to combine the physical network with virtual networks to support virtual machines and containers.

By running the Z9262F-ON, customers can support their Virtual Cloud Networks, which are built using VMware’s NSX software, according to Peder Ulander, vice president of product marketing at VMware’s Networking and Security Business Unit.