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Rolling Review: Foundry's Network Design Builds In Capacity

Company's architecture, although not spectacular, would get the job done for TacDoh.

Foundry Networks has a long history of building fast switching gear. Although it's still a relatively small player in terms of market size compared with the likes of Hewlett-Packard and 3Com, Foundry does have legs in the data center. And, according to market researcher Heavy Reading, Foundry is No. 3 in the carrier Ethernet switching and routing space. All that plus good technology made the company attractive to Brocade, which recently announced plans to acquire Foundry, broadening Brocade's product offerings to a combined slate of data and storage network products.

Our original network design request for proposal for this Rolling Review took into account the way networks often grow: Infrastructure is purchased and installed as new facilities are needed. Mergers and acquisitions bring along their own hardware. For TacDoh--our fictional deep-fried dessert company for this Rolling Review--the result was a network that contained a hodgepodge of switch models, firmware releases, and vendors. The RFP is a chance to bring the entire organization onto a single platform and build in features like redundancy at the hardware and network layers, simplify management, leverage advanced traffic and network management to support real-time media, and gain additional security features.

Foundry's RFP response includes a traditional two-core switch using two SuperX 800 chassis, which interconnect the distribution and access layers. Servers in the data center have redundant connections to a pair of FESX 24-port 10/100/1,000 switches with two 10-Gbps uplinks. One 10-Gbps link interconnects the two FESX switches, and the other connects to one of the SuperX Core switches, providing a fully redundant design. The final price is $247,265.

The access layer consists of a SuperX chassis switch to serve TacDoh's third floor, the area with the highest concentration of employees. Other locations are served by FGS 24- or 48-port switches capable of Power over Ethernet (PoE). The first-floor conference room FES2402 switch is connected to an FGS switch rather than to the core SuperX 800 switches. The conference room is not a critical location, but we would have preferred a connection directly to the core. We'd make that change before committing to the design.

THE UPSHOT
CLAIM:  Foundry Networks' Fast Iron switches provide the capacity and features to carry the network for TacDoh, the fictional company in this Rolling Review, into the future. Foundry's design features hot-swappable power supplies and aggregated uplinks for maximum uptime.

CONTEXT:  Foundry has a good reputation for high-capacity networking, and its RFP response shows the company's prowess, even though the Fast Iron feature set doesn't stand out from the enterprise switch crowd

CREDIBILITY:  Foundry is one of the last pure-play switch/routing vendors. The pending acquisition by storage networking leader Brocade should help bring Foundry products into more shops and bolster long-term viability.
CAPACITY FOR THE FUTURE

All uplinks for the access switches are redundant 10-Gbps devices, and the SuperX access switch has four 10-Gbps uplinks to the core. The uplinks can be aggregated, increasing capacity and resiliency while boosting the aggregate bandwidth from the SuperX to the SuperX 800 core switches to 40 Gbps. We wouldn't have to add capacity for a long time to come.

All the Foundry switches have redundant, field-replaceable power supplies. The SuperX switches go one better than competitors on power redundancy by having separate system and PoE power subsystems. If PoE fails or becomes oversubscribed for some reason, it won't affect system power.

Foundry's access switches support LLDP and LLDP-MED to discover VoIP phones and other media connected to the network port, and use the discovered information to manage PoE power and assign hosts to the appropriate virtual LAN. Foundry also has been keeping up with security features such as 802.1X, DHCP snooping, and IP lockdown to harden the network edge as well as protect the switch hardware from denial-of-service attacks.

Foundry's security features aren't groundbreaking, but the company is keeping pace with the competition.

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