Dell Expands Switch Portfolio for Open Networking Push

The new systems support rates of up to 100GbE, bringing greater flexibility to address an increasingly fragmented networking market.


Dell officials want to continue pushing any advantage the company has in the evolving market for networking platforms that can run operating systems from multiple vendors.

It was just more than a year ago that Dell announced its Open Networking initiative, leveraging the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) to enable Cumulus Networks' Linux-based OS to run on some of its switches.

Since then, the company has added software from other vendors, including network virtualization company Midokura and Big Switch Networks' software-defined networking (SDN) software. The latest step in the development of Dell's program came last week, with the unveiling of new switches that range as high as 100 Gigabit Ethernet and the introduction of another network OS—from IP Infusion –that can run on the open switches.

"The new products announced today offer customers complete flexibility to take advantage of open networking environments and new computing models as well as the revenue streams these network infrastructures will allow," Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product management and strategy for Dell Networking, said in a statement.

The company is looking to give customers greater flexibility not only in operating systems, but also in networking speeds, an important move in an increasingly fragmenting market. With the new switches, Dell is offering customers not only 1GbE, 10GbE and 40GbE, but also 25GbE and 100GbE. In a report earlier this month, Dell'Oro Group analysts noted the differing demands from such segments as campus, data center, SMBs and carrier Ethernet.

"In looking to our forecast, we believe the demands of the cloud and higher speeds of Ethernet such as 25 Gbps, 50 Gbps, and 100 Gbps, will cause the vendor landscape in the data center market to change significantly," Alan Weckel, vice president of Ethernet switch research at Dell'Oro, said in a statement. "At the same time, we believe the campus market is about to go through a mini upgrade cycle to 2.5 Gbps and 5.0 Gbps to support higher speed WLAN access points."

Included among the new switches is the Z9100-ON, a 1U (1.75-inch) 100GbE fabric switch aimed at aggregation and access layers and designed for the cloud, high-performance computing (HPC) environments and Web 2.0 applications that demand a range of options in switching speeds (the switch offers rates of 10, 25, 40, 50 and 100GbE). Dell officials said the switch offers up to seven times the density of a competing switch.

The S4048-ON is a low-latency 10/40GbE top-of-rack (ToR) switch for software-defined data centers. The switch is designed for Web and cloud service providers to run open-source environments and need switch support for large hardware tables, VXLAN and expanding buffering. Meanwhile, the S3048-ON is an entry-level ToR switch aimed at enterprise and midmarket organizations that already run 1GbE switches. The switch comes with Dell's OS9 operating system that includes such features as Virtual Link Trunking (VLT), the OpenFlow SDN protocol, Open Automation, Cloud Stack integration with OpenStack, Microsoft, VMware and Docker. It also consumes half the power and costs 50 percent less than Dell's current 1GbE switches, according to the company.

IP Infusion, which makes network software for the telecommunications and data communications markets, only recently announced its OcNOS networking OS for data center and enterprise networks.

The trend toward SDN and network-functions virtualization has fueled the rise of white-box switches—basic systems built by original design manufacturers (ODMS) that can run third-party networking software—that challenge established vendors like Dell, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks. The white box and bare-metal switch segment of the market saw revenue in 2014 grow 40 percent over the previous year, according to Dell'Oro analysts.

Dell's Open Networking initiative is part of a move to what Gartner analysts call brite boxes—branded switches from top vendors that can run their own or third-party networking software. HP and Juniper also are going down this path. Such systems tend to cost less than the OEMs' more proprietary hardware, but offer more support and services than what users get from white boxes.