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Force 10 Fires Up Low Latency Switch

As users start to ponder the benefits of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, Force 10 Networks is planning to unveil a new low-latency switch aimed at firms building large server and storage clusters.

Could this be an InfiniBand killer?

Next week, the vendor will take the wraps of its S2410, a fixed configuration, 24-port, 1U device targeted at the enterprise market. Steve Garrison, Force 10's senior director of corporate marketing, claims the switch offers 300-nanosecond latency, which is on a par with InfiniBand. "This is positioned as an interconnect switch for clusters. What we have done is to try to copy a lot of the tricks that InfiniBand has," he says.

Indeed, latency has been a battle cry of InfiniBand's proponents. "The volume of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet will pick up, but for now, InfiniBand's way ahead," said Thad Omura, VP of marketing at Mellanox, a leading InfiniBand subsystem supplier, in a recent interview. He says Ethernet latencies of 10 microseconds just can't compete against less than 2 microseconds for InfiniBand cards.

That's why Force 10's claim, if it can be supported, will be interesting. The closest existing 10-GigE switch from Force 10, the S50, offers latency between 5 and 10 microseconds, the vendor says, and it's a similar story for the competition. Foundry Networks' 8X10G device, for example, comes with a billed 10-microseconds latency, and HP's 6400cl family proclaims 11.7 microseconds.

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