Force10 Buys MetaNetworks

Force10's bigger challenge is to cram it all into a new blade

November 16, 2005

3 Min Read
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It's a combination of speed and safety that might make Detroit envious.Force10 Networks Inc. today bought security specialist MetaNetworks Inc. for an undisclosed fee, with the aim of plugging the 10-Gbit/s security gap. (See Force10 Buys MetaNetworks.)

Suppliers have been trumpeting 10-Gbit/s Ethernet as an ideal way to link systems and storage in consolidated data centers. (See High-Speed Links Head for Mainstream.) But, with all this additional bandwidth come security risks. It makes sense to use the 10-Gbit/s ports that come in and out of the data center to add security,” explains Andrew Feldman, vice president of marketing at Force 10.

MetaNetworks, which builds specialist 10-Gbit/s intrusion prevention and detection appliances, aims to solve the problem. The startup’s flagship product, the MTP-10G, can apply up to 1,500 security policies to each packet, all at wire speed. According to MetaNetworks, the MTP-10G can also capture up to 1 million packets per second.

Initial user reaction to the deal has been positive. A researcher at Oak Ridge National Lab, who asked not to be named, told Byte and Switch that the deal makes sense on a number of levels. “Potentially, it’s very interesting,” he says. “MetaNetworks is a company with a really neat idea that simply needs money.”

As an existing Force10 customer, the Oak Ridge source admits that the combination of 10-Gbit/s wire speed switches and security is an attractive one. “We operate under pretty stringent intrusion detection requirements,” he explains, adding that the ideal scenario would be for Force10 to turn the MetaNetworks’ appliance into a blade. In that form, security could be easily deployed within Force10 switch/routers, such as the high-end Terascale E-Series, without crowding the lab's other hardware.Force10's Feldman says the user will get his wish, but it’s not going to happen overnight. “It’s going to begin as a standalone appliance and we’re going to work to eventually integrate it into our products.” The ultimate goal, according to Feldman, is to turn the MetaNetworks technology into a blade, but that's a year or more away.

With vendors pushing higher and higher 10-Gbit/s port densities to the masses, security is set to become a hot topic over the coming months. Recently, for example, Force10 unveiled a family of new 8- and 16-port 10-Gbit/s line cards to boost the density of its E-Series switch/routers. (See Force10 Gets Dense and Force10 Reduces Prices.)

The idea is that by increasing the number of ports on the devices, users can hook more and more servers and storage together and then scale up and down as resources are needed.

But Force10 is not the only vendor doing this density dance. Rival Foundry Networks Inc., for example, recently unveiled its new RX-16 switch, offering up to 64 ports of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, eight more than Force10 previously offered on its E1200. (See Foundry Flashes New Hardware and Force10 Does the Density Dance.)

That said, Force10’s new line cards push the E1200’s density to a whopping 244 ports. While that threshold will help feed the most voracious bandwidth appetites, 10-Gbit/s could really work wonders were it to run over copper rather than the fiber cabling it requires now. But no vendor's selling that right now, laments the Oak Ridge researcher.— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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