Dell’s S6000 Switch Supports VMware’s New NSX Technology

The powerful and energy-efficient switch, which comes with a range of virtualization and SDN features, is introduced at VMworld.

Dell is rolling out a new network switch designed for cloud data center environments that are highly virtualized and run such workloads as big data and virtual desktop infrastructures.

In addition, the company's S6000 offers double the density, greater energy efficiency and the ability to bridge the communications gap between physical hardware and virtual machines, a crucial step as data centers continue to become more highly virtualized, according to Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product management and marketing at Dell Networking.

"A switch needs to address that gap between the physical and virtual world," Joshipura told eWEEK, which he said will make the data center environment faster and more dynamic. "The fact is, they don't speak to each other right now."

Dell officials introduced the S6000 Aug. 26 at the VMworld 2013 show in San Francisco. A key aspect of the new switch is that it includes a range of software-defined networking (SDN), automation and virtualization capabilities, including support for NSX, a new network controller that VMware introduced the same day that combines its own technology with that of SDN startup Nicira, which VMware bought for $1.26 billion last year.

Network virtualization and SDN will be a key subject at VMworld this year. SDN and network-function virtualization (NFV) promise to bring the same programmability and flexibility to networks that virtualization already does to servers and storage, laying the foundation for what vendors are calling the software-defined data center (SDDC). Driving the demand for SDDCs are trends such as cloud, mobility and new workloads, including big data.

The S6000 will bring greater performance, energy efficiency and virtualization capabilities to the networking layer, Joshipura said. The switch offers hardware-accelerated Layer 2 gateway functionality, which brings support for VMware's NSX and bridges the traffic between virtualized and non-virtualized environments. In addition, like all S-series switches, the S6000 supports the OpenFlow protocol for controller-based workloads, virtual server networking (VSN) for automated virtual machine and vLAN configuration, and bare-metal provisioning.

In addition, the company also is showing off new capabilities in Active Fabric Manager 2.0 aimed at VMware environments, including command-line interface functionality for VMware's vSphere Distributed Switch. This will enable IT administrators to configure physical and virtual fabric switches via industry-standard command-line syntax and common design templates.

The S6000 also is designed for high-density environments, which are becoming increasingly common with the rise of cloud computing and virtualization. The switch offers thirty-two 40 Gigabit Ethernet or 96 10GbE ports (with eight 40GBE ports) in a 1U (1.75-inch) form factor, enabling it to support flexible network architectures in dense racks as a top-of-rack switch, or bring connectivity to multiple racks within the rows.

It also offers up to 2.56 Tb/s performance—twice that of similar products in a 1U form factor, Joshipura said—and can be fresh-air cooled, enabling it to run in warmer data centers and reducing costs. Dell offers a line of what officials call Fresh Air products that can run in data centers that are warmer and more humid—up to 45 degrees Celsius and at 90 percent humidity—than traditional environments. It consumes 50 percent less power than competitive offerings, he said.

The switch can run at 220 watts, enabling Dell to offer power savings and double the density of other switches while ensuring high performance. Joshipura said Dell engineers were able to bring such power and density capabilities to the switch by leveraging some concepts found in power-efficient servers—such as the ability to turn off power to processors when they're not being used and by optimizing air flow through the system. The engineers also used some innovations inherited when Dell bought networking vendor Force10 Networks in 2011.

The new switch will be available later in the third quarter, he said.