Force10 Adds to Its Virtualization Strategy

Force10 is unveiling its new ExaScale E-Series family of routers and switches as a key part of its Virtualization Framework, designed to improve efficiency and agility in enterprise data centers looking to virtualization and cloud computing to help reduce costs and improve performance. Force10's moves come as vendors such as Cisco and HP look to combine hardware, software and services to help businesses adopt virtualization and cloud computing technologies.

Force10 Networks is rolling out a key part of the virtualization strategy it introduced less than two months ago.

Force10 in February unveiled its Virtualization Framework, an initiative designed to ease the management of virtualized data centers. It included a suite of terabit-enabled virtualization and management software as well as tools for helping with development of virtualized data centers.

On March 23, the company announced its ExaScale E-Series of switches and routers that officials say are needed in data centers deploying virtualization and cloud computing technologies.

The ExaScale E-Series products support the 10 Gigabit Ethernet environments that are growing in prominence in data centers, and also offer designs that improve cooling and power capabilities, reducing system power use and cutting per-port consumption by up to 70 percent over other platforms, officials said.

Key features in the ExaScale E-Series switches and routers including the ability to offer 100 Gbps of useable data capacity per slot, total throughput of more than 2 billion packets per second across a switching fabric capacity of up to 3.5 Tbps, and the capability of delivering continuous non-blocking, line rate throughput, which eliminates network bottlenecks, said Steve Garrison, vice president of marketing at Force10.

Garrison also said that the new family of products is powered by FTOS, Force10's Unix-like operating system that is common across all of the company's Reliable Networking switch and router products.

Force10's moves with its virtualization push and, now, the ExaScale E-Series routers and switches come at a time when infrastructure vendors are looking for ways to help businesses that are under extreme budgetary stress to utilize virtual technologies and the burgeoning cloud computing offerings within their data centers.

The company's virtualization strategy includes such products as VirtualScale consolidation software, VirtualControl networking partitioning tool and VirtualView, which enables businesses to monitor the virtual network and automate the deployment of resources based on demand.

The goal of the Virtualization Framework initiative-including the ExaScale E-Series-is to give enterprises a standards-based way of deploying and managing virtualized data centers, and thus improve efficiency and agility within the facilities.

Top-tier companies such as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard are working to integrate hardware, software and services to give businesses a complete offering on which to base their current and future data center plans. For example, Cisco March 16 unveiled its Unified Computing System program that includes not only its networking experience, but upcoming blade servers and technologies from such partners as VMware and EMC.

Garrison said he sees opportunity in light of Cisco's announced plans. Cisco is looking to be an all-in-one provider, he said.

"But what if you want choice?" he asked.

That's where a company such as Force10, with a more open plan, comes in, Garrison said. He also said Force10 offers a more efficient and greener alternative to Cisco's Nexus products.

In addition, Cisco's decision to expand its presence in the data center could put a strain on relationships that company has with such partners as HP, IBM, Dell and Sun Microsystems, which could help strengthen Force10's workings with those vendors, Garrison said.

A half-rack ExaScale E1200i chassis bundle starts at $89,000 and is available immediately. A one-third rack E600i chassis bundle will be available in the third quarter.