Extreme Networks IS one of the only pure infrastructure vendors left. That focus lets the company add interesting and useful features to its switch line ahead of the competition. These advanced capabilities include CLI scripting, event-driven port configuration, hot switch and module upgrades on some platforms, and a unified OS.
Extreme's response to our Rolling Review RFP for TacDoh, a fictional company that sells deep-fried desserts, is impressive in its failover and expansion capabilities. However, as a pure-play infrastructure vendor, Extreme must form more partnerships like its recent VoIP agreement with Avaya to fill out its product offerings and compete as a one-stop shop.
Extreme's switch line sports feature-rich, robust fixed-configuration X150, X250, X350, and X450 devices and the underlying Linux-based ExtremeXOS. Extreme provides a software developers' kit free for custom integration and makes scripts freely available for automating configuration processes.
Extreme's RFI response calls for a chassis switch at the core and stackable devices at the edge. Extreme chose a pair of BlackDiamond 8810s in a redundant configuration with dual management modules interconnected using dual 10-Gbps ports.
The access switches, X450e stackables, connect to both BlackDiamonds over 10-Gbps uplinks. The uplinks in each stack are on separate switches, providing both logical and physical redundancy.
Extreme uses its Ethernet Automatic Protection Switching, specified as informational IETF RFC 3619, which defines a ring topology with a 50-millisecond failover. The EPICenter network manager provides for day-to-day management.
The data center servers are connected directly to the 8810s, rather than to a separate data center switch. This allows the data center servers to interact directly on the chassis and removes the potential choke point of additional uplinks. The X450e and X250 switches can be stacked, up to eight in a group, letting us expand capacity without having to swap out hardware.
SECURITY IN MIND
Extreme's switches have the security features we'd expect, from tracking dynamic and static IP and MAC addresses to denial-of-service prevention, and they support 802.1X, Web, and MAC authentication on the switch, so they're ready for network access control when TacDoh is.
The X450e switches provide 370 watts of Power over Ethernet, enough to allocate 8 watts for a 48-port switch. However, adding an external power supply increases the total output and provides redundant power when needed. Like other PoE-enabled switches, the X450e can be configured to prioritize power to ports if there's an outage. Port power can be scheduled, letting you turn off ports during downtime.
Extreme's Universal Port, available in ExtremeXOS, lets scripts be run based on port changes, user authentication, and even other events within the switch. For example, when a VoIP phone connects to the switch and ExtremeXOS discovers the device via Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP), port parameters like virtual LAN and power budget can be set automatically. Most modern switches do that, but Universal Port lets similar events execute even if a device doesn't support LLDP.
ExtremeXOS also can identify devices based on the first three bytes of a NIC's MAC address, called an Organizational Unique Identifier. Universal Port can even take programmatic action when combined with ExtremeXOS's CLI scripting, a simple scripting interface for creating and using variables in ExtremeXOS commands.
|CLAIM: Extreme's design builds in capacity, speed, and redundancy. The combination of redundancy in the BlackDiamond 8810 core switches and failure detection with Extreme's Ethernet Automatic Protection Switching makes sub-50-millisecond failover possible.
CONTEXT: Extreme's design is, well, extreme. The dual BlackDiamond 8810s provide ample horsepower, redundancy, and untapped capacity to serve TacDoh for a long time.
CREDIBILITY: Extreme's response to our RFP is well thought out, and the ExtremeXOS offers features that are just starting to show up in other products. Being a leader in features, however, isn't a guarantee that the company, or its products, will continue to thrive. We are concerned about Extreme's limited product line and its ability to compete with vendors offering a broader array of technologies. Extreme also lags in market penetration, which may hurt its long-term viability.