Force10 claims that its open framework will improve interoperability and increase customer choice, something necessary if networks are to play their part in a cloud. "Networking still has a proprietary feel," said Jeff Baher, senior director of product marketing. "We want to bring the open culture of the compute world to networking."
Force10 is most excited about its Z-Series ZettaScale core switches, which theoretically lead the industry in performance density by packing more than a terabit per second (Tbit/s) of switching capacity into each 1U of rack space.
First up is the Z9000, a 2U box with 128 10-Gbit Ethernet ports planned to go on sale in July for $175,000. Unlike most switches with such large capacity, this one is only available in a fixed configuration, something Force10 said makes it simpler to deploy. The idea is that the (relatively) low price point means organizations can overprovision if they initially need less capacity than the Z9000 offers, while support for a leaf-and-spine topology makes it scalable to larger networks.
Each Z9000 can act as either a leaf or a spine, with a maximum cluster size of 64 spines and 128 leaves for a total core capacity of 160 Tbit/s. The leaves and spines can be clustered together or spread out geographically in a "distributed core," necessary for cloud computing.
Force10's banner customer is cloud service provider Joyent, but it's aiming the distributed architecture at enterprises too; even organizations which aren't yet ready to offload their data to cloud service providers can still gain many of its benefits by rolling out cloud technology internally. "We see a lot of enterprises deploying this," said Baher, "It's not just for the Googles of the world."
The other product in the Z-Series is the Z9512, a 19U chassis-based device that will offer 9.6 Tbit/s split between any combination of 480 10-Gbit Ethernet ports, 96 40-Gbit Ethernet ports, or 48 100-Gbit Ethernet ports. The switch's backplane is capable of supporting up to 1 Tbit/s of capacity in each of its 12 slots, but initial cards will be limited to 400-Gbit/second with 1 Tbit/s cards planned for future. Force10 hasn't disclosed exact pricing or shipping dates, saying only that the switch is due in fall 2011.