Force10 Reaches Out With S50 Switch

Company targets data center market.

Force10 Networks Inc. later this month will roll out its first fixed-configuration switch, a move that the high-end network switch company believes will help it extend beyond its traditional place in the network core and begin to push into the data center market.

The Force10 S50 switch, which was launched last week, provides 48 Gigabit Ethernet ports operating at line rate and two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Force10 brings to the switch its corelike performance and reliability in interconnecting servers.

The switching fabric in the 1U (1.75 inches) switch supports an aggregate switching capacity of 192G bps. It can process 20 percent more traffic than competitive offerings, said company officials in Milpitas, Calif.

"If you look at pure nonblocking throughput, it is faster," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group Research Inc., in Boston. "I dont know of another product that has the same switching capacity [in that form factor]."

The S50 is designed for high-density data center environments that require greater simplicity and reliability. Customers can stack up to eight of the switches in a virtual cluster.

Resiliency features include support for multiple redundant paths through the network, preprovisioning, hot insertion and removal of stacked switches, and support for all three versions of the standard Layer 2 spanning tree protocol.

Force10 spent considerable time working on the stability of the S50 and decided to use some of the same features that have worked well in the chassis-based E-Series switches, company officials said.

Force10 hopes to compete with the likes of companies such as Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co.s ProCurve networking unit and Foundry Networks Inc. by offering reduced pricing on its latest line.

Pricing for the S50 starts at $8,000 for the base unit and $6,500 for the two-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet interface.

But even with a moderate pricing scheme, some observers are skeptical that the S50 will let Force10 move beyond its high-end niche or installed base of customers.

"Will they make a huge splash with this? I dont think so," said Steven Schuchart, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc., in Sterling, Va. "For customers whove enjoyed their Force10 equipment but needed something less expensive and with less capacity, this lets those customers continue with Force10 equipment."