Extreme, Force 10 Push 40Gb Ethernet at Interop

Extreme Networks at the Interop 2010 show demonstrated a 40GbE uplink, called the VIM3-40G4X, for its stackable Summit switches. At the same time, Force 10 officials, who earlier had said they will bring 40GbE to their switches later this year, continued to promote the faster I/O technology, which is due to be ratified by the IEEE in June.

The promise of 40 Gigabit Ethernet networks was a key topic of discussion at the Interop 2010 show in Las Vegas, which wraps up April 29.

Extreme Networks rolled out the VIM3-40G4X for its stackable switches. The uplink adds four 40GbE connections to its Summit X650 top-of-rack switches, and also is compatible with the Summit X480 switches, according to Extreme officials.

For their part, officials with Force 10 Networks, who on April 19 gave further definition to their plans for 40GbE, continued to push their message during the show.

Interop hit at a time when enterprises are struggling to handle the rapidly increasing amount of data in their networks, and as they are trying to find ways to consolidate and simplify their data center infrastructures. They are not only looking for greater scalability and performance, but also to consolidate their I/O fabrics. Moving from 10GbE to 40GbE promises to increase bandwidth while reducing the number of ports.

"As data centers increase in server density through consolidation efforts and the use of virtualization, 40GbE connectivity from the network core to top-of-rack switches becomes critical to providing the performance and scale required of the network," Shehzad Merchant, senior director of strategy for Extreme, said in a statement. "Furthermore, as servers move to native 10GbE connectivity, the need for 40GbE at the top-of-rack becomes even more acute."

In an interview in January, Merchant said that most data centers currently are running Gigabit Ethernet now, but the move to 10GbE will happen quickly, as will the transition to 40GbE, particularly as IT departments struggled to support virtualized services, video and storage workloads, as well as traditional applications.

At Interop, Extreme demonstrated the VIM3-40G4X that was installed in a Summit X650 switch in a top-of-rack configuration. The configuration was connected to Extreme's BlackDiamond 8800 chassis with a four-port 40GbE module, all supporting the ExtremeXOS operating system. The OS offers such features as Layer2/Layer 3 forwarding, redundancy and resiliency capabilities, according to the company.

"As servers and storage quickly migrate to higher density 10GbE connectivity, a compelling need arises for increased scalability in the data center," Merchant said, adding that moving to 40GbE will enable further scaling as data centers from physical infrastructures to virtualized environments to cloud computing.

Extreme's VIM3-40G4X for the Summit X650 will be in customers trials in the third quarter. Shipping will follow that, with pricing starting at $3,995.

Force 10 officials continued to bang to 40GbE drum during the show. A week before, they said they will incorporate 40GbE throughout their switch and router offerings in the second half of 2010. They said they expect demand for the technology to increase after the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) ratifies the standard, a move that is expected in June.

"It is an exciting time as the investment made by the industry over the past four yeas in 40GbE and 100GbE is set to culminate in June with the ratification of the IEEE P802.3ba standard," John D'Ambrosia, chairman of the IEEE P802.3ba Task Force and director of standards for Force 10, said in a statement April 19. "This standard will provide the tools needed to add bandwidth and reduce complexity in the data center."

Force 10 officials said that while enterprises eventually will demand 100GbE connectivity, the price right now is too high and that 40GbE is a more cost effective solution.

Initially, Force 10 will bring 40GbE into a 10GbE top-of-rack access switch for converging Fibre Channel and Ethernet fabrics.

Officials also said that their E-Series core switch/router currently is ready for 40GbE and 100GbE, and that their C-Series chassis-based switches are 40GbE ready.