More Data Means More Flexibility on the Edge

Arthur Cole

"Network convergence" is the buzzword du jour in enterprise adapter circles. At the switch level, however, trend lines point toward a growing diversity of functions and capabilities.

Particularly in edge and top-of-rack systems, there seems to be greater emphasis on manageability and increased efficiency, along with laying the groundwork for 40 and 100 Gbps environments as the industry transitions over to massively scalable architectures.

Enterasys, for example, recently unveiled new K-Series and A-Series edge devices, both outfitted with a new generation of visibility and control technologies designed to accommodate the continuing shifting toward virtual and cloud architectures. Through the introduction of tools like location and ID tracking, along with voice, video and data prioritization, the company says it also is helping enterprises meet the steadily increasing diversification of user access devices. The platform also features a new CoreFlow ASIC designed to increase application visibility and control.

And although you don't hear the name "Dell" in many enterprise networking conversations, the company would like you to know that it does have a new top-of-rack switch designed to provide managed GbE connectivity that conforms to the new Energy Efficiency Ethernet (EEE) standards. And no, the PowerConnect 7000 is not just another re-branded Juniper EX. The system was designed by Dell from the ground up with 24 or 48 GbE ports, plus four, 10 GbE ports for connection with other networks or high-speed server and storage resources.

At Arista, the talk is of the new 7050 series 10/40 GbE device. Delivering a maximum of 1.28 TB, the company says it can deliver individual 10 GbE interfaces for less than 2 watts each. The unit is available with 48 1 GbE SPF ports and four 40 GbE QSFP ports, plus an optional 50 GB SSD to supplement the 4 GB of internal DRAM. Arista has it marked for highly scalable enterprise environments like Hadoop clusters and large virtual machine deployments.

An edge network is only as powerful as its core, however, which is why Alcatel-Lucent is transferring some if its expertise in wireless networks to the wired world. The company has come out with a new wired mesh design that allows for much greater flexibility in directing traffic to and from the edge. The package consists of the OmniSwitch 6900 top-of-rack switch and a new pod design based on the multi-chassis link aggregation (MC-LAG) specification that allows the switches to communicate without going through an expensive core device. Of course, you can always use the pod construct with multiple core switches to drive both increased connectivity and lower power consumption.

As both the cost and complexity of deploying new data center resources is reduced through virtualization and cloud, productivity will be measured not by how much data your environment can handle, but by how quickly it can move that data to the resources that need it.

Your switch platform, then, is quickly becoming the most important piece of the enterprise puzzle.

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