40-Gbps Ethernet Makes Its Debut At Interop

The new high-speed ports can be seen on systems from Hewlett-Packard, Enterasys, Extreme, and others, even if the products won’t be available until later this year.

Art Wittmann

May 10, 2011

3 Min Read
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The Interop trade show is about a lot more than feeds and speeds. This year, for instance, the Best of Interop Grand Prize went to VMware, and as attendees look around the show floor they'll find plenty of products that meet a variety of business needs, ranging from cloud-based server backups and end user devices to appliances that track your nascent company's performance against the business plan. That's right--a business plan appliance.

But a majority of show goers still want to see what's new in infrastructure. As this morning's keynote let out, the masses headed for the main exhibit door, many of them eager to see developments from their favorite switching vendor.

Exiting The Interop Keynote

As they rushed in, they were greeted by a variety of presentations and announcements, but if there's an overarching theme at Interop, it's 40-Gbps Ethernet and fabric architectures. The new high-speed ports can be seen on systems from Hewlett-Packard, Enterasys, Extreme, Mellanox, and others, even if the products won't be available until later this year.

One vendor conspicuously absent from that field is Cisco, whose booth is populated mostly by partners and demonstrations of the company's VoIP and collaboration technologies.

If Cisco's Interop presence in switching is the least impressive, HP's may be the most impressive, with walls of racks of equipment. Its 40-Gbps line card (third from the right in the picture below) wasn't the densest collection we've seen, but there it was, up and running. The chassis below is one from HP's acquisition of H3C, part of the 3Com deal.

HP chassis with 40 Gbps line card.jpg

While HP's wall of gear is drawing much attention from attendees, one of the most impressive displays of a single rack of hardware comes from test vendor Ixia. Every port is cabled up, and if the flashing connection lights are to be believed, they're doing something.

Ixia Hardware Rack

Other exhibitors felt less of a need to power up their systems. Enterasys is content to show demos that are more understandable than trying to show just how much data 40 Gbps really represents. Here its system is sitting on a display with other devices from the company, but not powered up. The overall density appears to be about the same as HP's.

Enterasys Switch with lots of 40 Gbps ports.jpg

There once was a day when vendors would have shown their line cards next to their switches as a demonstration of their engineering prowess. At Interop this year, I couldn't find a single vendor showing off the guts of its latest systems. But I did find one vendor that's all about the inner workings.

Brocade is showing all sorts of NICs, fixed configuration switches, line cards, and even intelligent line cards ready to process any packet in any way some third-party vendor might like.

Brocade 10 Gbps Ethernet line card.jpg

There's a good chance that most vendors' products look like these Broadcom switches on the inside, full of merchant silicon. While the internal hardware engineering may not differentiate these products, the management software and packaging within these product lines will.

Brocade line card with brains.jpg

Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at [email protected].

To find out more about Art Wittmann, please visit his page.

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