Extreme Networks Unveils Ethernet Switching Fabric at Interop

Extreme's Open Fabric portfolio is designed to address data center pressures created by such trends as mobile computing and cloud computing.

Extreme Networks is joining the growing ranks of networking vendors offering an Ethernet switching fabric designed to leverage the benefits of such technologies as cloud computing and virtualization.

At the Interop 2011 show in Las Vegas, Extreme officials unveiled their Open Fabric solutions portfolio of cloud-scale data center switches, which includes the BlackDiamond X8 modular chassis, Summit X670 top-of-rack switches and BlackDiamond 8900 high-density Gigabit Ethernet blades.

The offerings are designed to address the business demands for greater scalability, cost efficiency and higher performance, all of which are driven by the growth of cloud computing, virtualization and mobile computing, according to Extreme officials.

"People are now demanding access to [the network] anywhere they are and on any device," Shehzad Merchant, senior director of strategy at Extreme, said in an interview with eWEEK. "The best way to deliver this ... is through the cloud."

The new Open Fabric portfolio, announced May 10, is designed to address the challenges that come with cloud computing, according to Merchant. Extreme's offerings provide on-demand provisioning, automation and an open architecture, the ability for businesses to consolidate their data center resources, a scalable fabric that supports both 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 40GbE, and energy-efficient power management capabilities.

"The network power equation is becoming a larger [issue]," Merchant said.

The BlackDiamond X8 chassis offers up to 768 non-blocking 10GbE ports or 192 non-blocking 40GbE ports in a third of a rack space, and will evolve to support the upcoming 100GbE. It offers 20 terabits per second of switching capacity, according to Extreme. It can support up to 128,000 virtual machines, and offers virtual machine lifecycle management capabilities and automated configuration. It also supports various storage standards, including iSCSI and FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet).

"This is really a generation ahead [of competitor offerings] in terms of raw capacity," he said.

The Summit X670 switches offer up to 64 ports of 10GbE or 48 ports of 10GbE coupled with four ports of 40GbE uplinks. The switches also support up to 128,000 virtual machines.

Merchant said the capacity of the Open Fabric portfolio is a key differentiator for Extreme as it competes with the likes of Cisco Systems in the crowded networking space. Vendors like Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Networks and Brocade also are pushing Ethernet networking fabrics that tout their open architecture that let customers use switching products from other vendors, a nod to the heterogeneous nature of most data centers and a way to let businesses leverage the investments they've already made in their infrastructures.

As further proof of this openness, Extreme's Open Fabric portfolio also will support the OpenFlow initiative to simplify network provisioning, Merchant said. In addition, the products support Data Center Bridging to enable customers to consolidate LAN and storage fabrics in the data center.