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Extreme Networks' 40 GbE, 100 GbE Switch Modules Target Data Centers

Extreme also opens up its OS to support OpenFlow 1.0 and OpenStack to enable more flexible network architectures.

Extreme Networks is boosting its Open Fabric BlackDiamond X8 switches with 40 Gigabit Ethernet and 100 Gigabit Ethernet switch modules. The company also announced support for two software-defined networking applications recently released by Big Switch Networks. The 40GbE-XL module includes 12 ports and the 100GbE-XL module comes with four ports.

The company says that while initial adoption of 100 GbE was limited to service provider and Internet exchange points, it expects 100-GbE adoption in data centers will depend on relative cost per port and 40-GbE adoption on the server side, which the company estimates will start gaining traction in 2014.

In addition to the XL switch modules, the company announced that a forthcoming version of its ExtremeXOS will support OpenFlow 1.0 and the OpenStack Quantum Plugin, which enables networking-as-a-service between interface devices such as vNICs managed by other OpenStack services.

Extreme's Quantum Plugin enables enterprises to define networks, add virtual machines and create tenant networks. It also supports multitenant isolation using VLANs, VMANs and VRFs. It includes topology discovery and a scheduler to provide visibility into data center topology and create virtual machines in close proximity for tenants, as well as support for audit and change management.

Extreme also announced support for two Big Switch SDN applications: Big Tap and the Big Virtual Switch. The company says its compatibility with Big Tap will allow for traffic monitoring features such as performance monitoring, troubleshooting and security monitoring. Big Virtual Switch is a network virtualization application.

Big Switch Networks recently launched its Big Network Controller, which is designed to interact with third-party network devices supporting the OpenFlow protocol.

Andre Kindness, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, says the new switch modules are notable given Extreme Networks' relatively small size. Offering speeds of 40 GbE and 100 GbE puts them in a rather exclusive group with Cisco, he says.

Kindness says Extreme has traditionally focused on the high-end enterprise and carrier markets, but these new switch modules aimed at enterprise data centers show the company is forward-thinking, even though it will be some time before most companies require these speeds as they are still deploying 10 GbE servers and looking at adopting 40 GbE for aggregation. "People are really not filling up the 10 GbE pipes yet," he says. "Right now we're very much at the beginning of this cycle."

The capabilities of Extreme's new switch modules will position it well for RFPs, says Kindness, especially given its history with carriers. "When you have a good reputation in the carrier space, you have much more credibility in the enterprise space."

Sam Barnett, directing analyst at Infonetics Research, says Extreme is really pushing the concepts of open architectures. "They see real value in the applications that are layered on top of things such as OpenFlow and OpenStack," he says. The company's approach to SDN is just as significant as the speeds offered by its new hardware. "You have a real foundation for a truly converged data center network once we get rid of some of the silo mentalities we have in the IT community."

He says enterprise customers are looking for more open, flexible network architectures in part to control budgets that have expanded in recent years. Barnett says a recent survey of sizeable enterprises he conducted found that more than 90% of respondents are planning to deploy an SDN overlay technology or are evaluating an overlay technology over the next few years. "That tells me the community we're talking with said, 'We're interested. We think it will solve some problems.'"

Companies that have or plan to have SDN in production say the top benefits of SDN will be to improve network utilization and efficiency, and to automate more provisioning and management, according to the InformationWeek 2012 Software-Defined Networking Survey.

Both of Extreme Networks' new switch modules will be available in the second of half of 2013. The 40GbE-XL module is priced at $100,000, while the 100GbE-XL module will be $200,000. The new ExtremeOS is expected to be available in the first half of 2013.

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