Dell Aims New Switch, Controller at SDN, Cloud

The vendor's Z9500 switch offers a pay-as-you-go licensing model, while the Active Fabric Controller is built for OpenStack deployments.

Dell continues to expand its networking portfolio, unveiling a highly scalable switch designed for cloud computing environments and a new software-defined networking controller for enterprise data centers and service provider infrastructures.

The new offerings are the latest efforts by Dell to build out its networking capabilities as it looks to expand its reach as an enterprise IT solutions provider and to give customers more options and flexibility than other vendors as they migrate to software-defined networks (SDNs) and network-functions virtualization (NFV).

Enterprises and service providers are under increasing pressure to make their infrastructures more flexible, programmable and automated, thanks to such trends as virtualization, cloud computing and mobility. Those trends are helping drive the development of SDN and NFV solutions—which take much of the network intelligence and network services off of complex hardware gear and put them into software—and the need for easier scalability of their networking systems.

The Dell Networking Z9500 switch, announced March 25, is a highly dense 3RU (5.25-inch) system that enables businesses to pay for only what they use and to scale rapidly. Powered by Broadcom's popular Trident II silicon, the L2/L3 core switch is aimed at 10/40 Gigabit Ethernet aggregation efforts—key for such high-performance enterprise data centers, cloud environments and hosted data centers.

The switch offers up to 528 10GbE ports or 132 40GbE ports, and three times the density-per-RU and half the latency of its current Z9000 port. It offers more than 10T bps of throughput. The Z9500 also offers twice the density of Cisco Systems' Nexus 9000 switch and consumes half the power of Cisco's older Nexus 6000, according to Arpit Joshipura, vice president of networking product management and marketing for Dell.

In addition, the Z9500 lets organizations start small and grow as their needs increase. It offers a pay-as-you-go licensing model—businesses can pay for only 36 of the ports and then have more ports turned on when business demands dictate.

"Customers are really liking it because it fits the needs of all small and large data center fabrics," Joshipura told eWEEK.

Dell's new Active Fabric Controller is designed to plug into OpenStack deployments and enable automated configuration and provisioning of network services, according to Dell. The controller—which runs on an x86-based server—removes some of the complexity around OpenStack and OpenFlow, an open SDN protocol, and can be leveraged by both enterprise and service providers, he said.

The controller enables the network to automatically configure and allocate resources depending on the workloads, eliminating the need for manual intervention, Joshipura said. When new workloads are introduced, the controller reconfigures and reallocates resources. In such environments as clouds, that capability can be crucial, he said.

"At the end of the day, the goal is to make the stitching of the OpenStack fabric automated," Joshipura said.

The integration of Active Fabric Controller into OpenStack also is an important factor in helping to accelerate the deployment of NFV environments, according to Dell officials.

Joshipura said Dell also is expanding its partnership with Red Hat—which was announced in December 2013—in which the two vendors will jointly develop SDN and NFV solutions aimed at the telecommunications industry. The first of the co-engineered solutions will be available later this year.

Dell's Z9500 Fabric Switch will be available in North America in April and worldwide in June. The Active Fabric Controller will be available in the second quarter.