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Dell Strengthens VNA, Thanks to Force10; Refreshes PowerConnect

One year after acquiring Force10 Networks, Dell continues to solidify its Virtual Network Architecture (VNA) while rolling out new products for its PowerConnect line.

Arpit Joshipura, a former Force10 Networks executive and now VP, product management and marketing at Dell Networking, says the acquisition has increased Dell's investment and workforce in R&D for networking by one-and-a-half times, with the number of employees in the former Force10 R&D group up from 400 to 650 employees. "We've doubled our momentum since the acquisition."

The R&D efforts came to fruition with Dell's first 40-GbE-enabled blade server switch, intended to be the centerpiece of its VNA portfolio, says Joshipura. The PowerConnect line of switches also continues to be refreshed.

Force10's heritage was high-performance, high-end networking, according to Joshipura. That remains a focus for Dell Networking, but the company also wants to bring that performance to the midmarket. "Rather than very expensive, legacy chassis-based architectures that only a few high-end customers can afford, we have launched the distributed core using products like the Z9000, which is a core in a 2RU form factor," he says. This pizza-box form factors delivers high-performance networking while reducing costs, energy usage and physical footprint in the data center.

Joshipura says cloud computing deployments, particularly hybrid clouds, are the biggest networking projects for customers. They're also grappling with more data, particularly big data, and looking to invest in networking to support virtual desktop infrastructures and mobile devices. All of these trends are driving network bandwidth up, he says.

Joshipura says software-defined networking (SDN) is part of Dell Networking's VNA, but he doesn't see it turning enterprise switches into commodity gear for a least another three to five years. "It's got its use cases and value," he says, but Dell doesn't see SDN as the only way of doing things.

The acquisition of Force10, which was focused on enterprise customers, was viewed as a way for Dell to enhance its networking offerings in the data center, and complement its existing PowerConnect solutions, says Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. Dell has been actively adding to its portfolio to appeal to its current base as well as enterprise clients.

He said the complete network portfolio with Force 10, PowerConnect and OEM relationships with wireless technology providers such as Aruba, combined with its server and storage products, gives Dell the ability to gain more traction with enterprises. "It really enables them to be viewed as a full-service provider," Joshipura explains.

Rohit Mehra, director of enterprise communications infrastructure at IDC, agrees that the Force10 acquisition has enabled Dell to make a stronger play in the data center while not letting its PowerConnect line for enterprise campuses languish. "They aren't picking one over the other," he says.

Next: An Addition to Dell's PowerConnect Line

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