Extreme Networks Inc. on Monday brought out its next-generation core network switch designed to support 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
Extremes new Black Diamond 10K high-end switch is based on both a new hardware architecture, dubbed the 4GNSS, for fourth-generation network silicon system, and a new, modular software architecture based on Unix, dubbed ExtremeWare XOS.
The 1.6-terabits-per-second switch uses the new 4GNSS programmable application-specific integrated circuits, which can scale to support 40Gbps throughput. According to Timon Sloane, director of product management in Santa Clara, Calif., the Black Diamond 10K can provide true hardware-based routing, meaning that the raw routing table can be loaded into the chips and all forwarding decisions are made in hardware.
The ASICs also support IP Version 6 and Multi-protocol Label Switching, allowing those protocols to run at "wire speed," Sloane said.
The new Black Diamond 10K switch gives Extreme Networks a "leg up" against competitor Cisco for performance, believes user Robert Jacobs, director of network services at Phonoscope Ltd., a Houston, Texas metropolitan area network provider. "It puts them in a class totally by themselves performance-wise and in some innovative ways theyre handling the ASICs. The fact that we have programmable ASICs means that if something new and wonderful comes out and we want to make it a hardware service, we dont have to wait for the three-year development cycle on an ASIC," he said.
Meanwhile, the new ExtremeWare XOS operating system can scale to support multiple CPUs and additional modules. It allows software upgrades to be done while the chassis is in service, providing "hitless failover," according to Sloane. Also in support of this "hitless failover" is the capability for a pair of switch fabrics to synchronize their databases. ExtremeWare XOS also provides XML-based configuration, allowing the switch to be integrated with third-party applications and business processes.
ExtremeWare XOS is unique in exploiting the 32-bit Unix architecture, which allows users to go into a switch to start and stop processes, according to Joel Conover, principal analyst with Current Analysis Inc. in De Pere, Wis. "The only other vendor that shares those roots is Cisco, but Cisco obfuscates that through IOS. It is a competitive benefit to be able to do that," he said.
"The fact that I can stop and start individual services on the switch without having to reboot the whole switch is kinda cool," Jacobs added, whos company plans to upgrade its five-county metropolitan area network with the new switches.
Other new hardware features provide greater security. The Clear-Flow feature, for example, can identify anomalies on the network such as a virus outbreak. Coupled with advanced access control, Clear-Flow can be used to look into network packets for critical information. It can also support up to 128,000 Access Control Lists.
The new chassis supports 48 10-Gigabit-Ethernet ports and 480 Gigabit-Ethernet ports. Extremes new line card supports six 10-Gigabit-Ethernet-ports or 60 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The price per port for 10 Gigabit-Ethernet is $7,200. The switch, available now, starts at $90,000 including the operating system and 60 Gigabit Ethernet ports.
In competing with its other rival—Foundry Networks Inc.—the new switch and its price/performance ratio could "ultimately start a price war," believes Conover.