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Sun Microsystems' N1400V Switch

While other vendors in the L4-7 application switching market have been concentrating on application-oriented features such as acceleration, security, and protocol-specific switching, Sun Microsystems has been quietly working on virtualization. In addition to traditional network-based failover capabilities, its recently released N1400V now also supports virtual failover capabilities. Instead of an all-or-nothing scenario, one set of virtual services can fail over to a second switch while the others keep running.

The N1400V uses the same technology as Sun's N2120V and N2040V switches, but it's scaled down from a 2U to a 1U form factor. And with only a single network processor to power its four SFP Gigabit Ethernet ports, it costs half the price of the earlier model. Sun's custom function cards, separate from the mainboard in the N2100V family line, are integrated with the mainboard in the N1400V, and the user interface has been improved. In the past, for instance, if one administrator cleared the counters for any part of the system--like virtual services--they were cleared permanently on the switch. Now the clearing of counters is session-based, and clearing them for one administrator won't clear them for other administrators logged into the device.

Sun's N1400V assumes the same virtual concepts as the N2000 series--that is, virtual switches (vSwitches) and virtual routers (vRouters) are used to partition a single switching device into virtual entities. As with software virtualization, each vSwitch and vRouter can be designated a specific set of ports (just like a VLAN), but unlike the concept of VLANs, each vSwitch can be allocated a set amount of resources (memory, bandwidth, etc.), which helps keep applications from tromping on one another. The concept is also useful for keeping traffic completely segregated, as traffic on one vSwitch can't be seen on another.

  • Redundancy can be configured all-or-nothing, or on a per-vSwitch basis
  • Multiple data paths provide link redundancy for free
  • VSRP parameters highly tunable to obtain desired failover behavior

  • Bad

  • Configuration is complex
  • VSRP is proprietary, although based conceptually on VRRP

  • N1400V, $25,995 as tested, Sun Microsystems, 1-800-232-4671
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