Extreme Challenges Cisco, Juniper with Ethernet Modules

Extreme Networks is rolling out its BlackDiamond 8900-Series modules, which offer scalability and flexibility in 1GbE and 10GbE data center environments. Extreme officials say the modules offer better density, cost and energy efficiency than competing products from vendors such as Cisco and Juniper. Like companies such as HP, Juniper and 3Com, Extreme sees changes in the data center and economic pressures forcing enterprises to consider alternatives to Cisco.

Extreme Networks is putting the final touches on its Ethernet data center strategy with the rollout of the BlackDiamond 8900-Series modules.

The BlackDiamond 8900-Series modules for Extreme's BlackDiamond Series 8800 switches include a 24-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet card, 96-port 1GbE card and 128/80 Gigabit-per-slot fabric.

The products were announced May 11 and will be demonstrated by Extreme at the Interop 2009 conference in Las Vegas May 17-21.

Company officials said the products come as changes continue to come in the data center and as IT departments under pressure from the global recession and increasing business demands begin looking for alternatives to dominant networking vendor Cisco Systems.

In the data center, virtualization, multicore processing and blade servers are ramping up the density of the computing environment, said Kevin Ryan, senior director of data center solutions for Extreme.

"Data center and enterprise customers are looking to get a lot more density in the data center," Ryan said.

Where once IT administrators were putting anywhere from three to 10 virtual machines on a single physical server, now that number is climbing to as high as 50 VMs, he said. That type of density, plus the rapidly increasing amount of data that needs to be stored, and the growth of resource-intensive applications as high-definition video, unified communications and Web 2.0 social platforms are driving the demand for 10GbE in the data center.

Several analyst firms agree with that view. In March, Infonetics Research and Dell'Oro Group both issued reports that essentially said while the overall Ethernet switch market was down, the 10GbE switch space would still see positive revenue and port growth in 2009.

However, Ryan said the move to 10GbE was still in a transition phase, which is fueling demand for products that offer flexibility.

"Ten Gigabit Ethernet is taking off," he said. "But there's still a mix of 1 and 10G."

Extreme is delivering that flexibility, Ryan said. The BlackDiamond 8900-Series modules offer 10GbE and 1GbE ports, and can scale up to 582 10GbE ports in a single rack. Overall, the 8800 Series switches offer a single and modular operating system in the ExtremeXOS and quick integration and automation of network environments through the company's Universal Port.

In addition, the vendor has enabled XML, CLI (command-line interface) and SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) interfaces through its EPICenter management tool.

The 8900-Series modules, which can fit into Extreme's 8806 or 8810 chasses, also offer energy efficiency though dynamic energy management features. For example, the modules can go into hibernation mode during off-peak hours, reducing power consumption by up to 70 percent.

Such capabilities are key differentiators for Extreme from its competitors, in particular Cisco, Ryan said. Cisco has multiple OSes for its myriad offerings, which "creates a lot of complexity that leads to a lot of problems," he said.

Extreme isn't the only networking vendor to sense some vulnerability in Cisco's dominance, thanks in large part to the recession, as well as Cisco's push into other areas of the data center, such as servers, through its Unified Computing System initiative.

Juniper Networks and Hewlett-Packard have been making strong plays in the space, and one-time network giant 3Com announced May 11 that it was making a push back into the global enterprise networking space on the strength of its H3C business in China.

Extreme's Ryan said the recession is forcing enterprises to closely scrutinize their IT spending and to look for alternatives as ways to increase efficiencies and save money.

As a result, Extreme is finding new business opportunities, he said.

"We're seeing that we're being considered in [enterprise] proposals that maybe 18 months ago we wouldn't be in," Ryan said.

With its BlackDiamond platform, "we've been able make the performance [of its offerings] very high and keep the costs very low," he said.

Extreme officials claim that their 8900-Series modules beat Cisco and other competitors in bandwidth per line card, 10GbE port density and cost of acquisition.

Extreme's BlackDiamond 8900-Series modules will be available this quarter, starting at $24,995.