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Dell Readies 40GbE Virtual Network Switch

Dell is previewing news it will be making at the Interop Las Vegas 2012 networking convention next month by introducing its first 40-Gbit Ethernet (GbE)-enabled blade server switch. This will be the centerpiece of its Virtual Network Architecture (VNA) portfolio of products for virtualizing, automating and orchestrating networking functions in its version of software-defined networking (SDN). In fact, Dell is also announcing interoperability of VNA with technology from Big Switch Networks, which makes a controller that delivers instructions to switches and routers in an SDN environment.

The Dell Force10 MXL 10/40GbE blade switch, the latest member of the Dell PowerEdge M1000e blade family, features what the company calls "Ethernet stacking technology," which enables six switching modules within one enclosure or multiple enclosures to be managed as one logical device. The blade switch also speeds up east-west switching--in which data flows from one virtual machine to another, within a physical server or between them--by avoiding the path in which data moves out of the server, through a top-of-rack switch, to get to another server, says Arpit Joshipura the head of networking product management and marketing at Dell. Joshipura held a similar position at Force10 Networks until it was acquired by Dell in 2011.

The VNA portfolio has its origins in Force10, he says, and was unveiled by Dell, along with the M1000 blade line and other new products, in February. While Big Switch Networks offers a network controller that is key to SDN, VNA is a broader SDN solution, including virtual network and fabric management, automation, orchestration and policy control.

The VNA environment also extends to the virtual network programming level where it interoperates with the Dell Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) product, but also with Oracle Enterprise Manager. And on the network services side, VNA supports WAN optimization, firewalls and load balancers from companies such as SilverPeak, F5 Networks and SonicWall, which Dell acquired in March.

"This is how a workload-aware network will look like in the future," says Joshipura.

Although 40GbE products are just now gaining traction in the networking equipment market, Dell has taken an early lead: In the fourth quarter of 2011, it was the 40GbE market share leader. ahead of IBM and Extreme Networks, according to Dell’Oro Group research.

Dell also announced the new Dell Fabric Manager product for configuring, managing and monitoring Dell Distributed Core deployments in data centers. It also introduced version 5.0 of the Open Manage Network Manager, a single network management console for Dell networking platforms in branch, campus and data center networks.