Until now, Force10s main product offering was the E-Series of chassis-based switches. The S-50 represents a move into a new part of the market: the server edge of the data center. The 1-rack-unit box comes with 48 ports of Gigabit Ethernet (also capable of 10- and 100-Mbit/s operation) and two 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports.
The Milpitas, Calif., company has already got around half a dozen beta customers for the S-50, says Andrew Feldman, vice president of marketing.
This is all about cost. The high price per port of traditional chassis-based switches means users typically connect them to large server clusters. Force10, then, is going after those users that cant afford to hitch the likes of Web servers and software infrastructure servers to a large chassis-based box. Users can connect the servers to the S-50 and use its 10-Gbit/s uplinks to feed E-Series boxes.
It's a shrewd move, says Steven Schuchart, senior analyst for enterprise infrastructure at Current Analysis. The S-50 is a response to needs from customers that like their Force10 gear and are saying that they want an aggregation switch," he says.