Force10's recent announcement that it can provide 40Gbps from edge to core is further proof that 40Gb Ethernet in the data center is right around the corner. 40Gb Ethernet, designed for uplinks, reduces the number of 10Gb links that are aggregated and ensures that 48-port 1Gb switches won't be oversubscribed. While 40Gb isn't exactly ground breaking news, Force10 takes a different approach to the technology.
The S4810 is a 48 port 1/10Gbps autosensing ToR switch that takes up a paltry 1RU. The S4810 can also support four 40Gb Ethernet ports and has reversible redundant fans. Hardware support for data center bridging (DCB), which provides lossless Ethernet, is built in. Force10 will have full DCB support once the standards are finalized and Force10 can issue the firmware upgrade. This is on par with other vendors DCB strategies. The S4810 is Force10's high-capacity switch product. Its S60 and S55 offer 48 1Gb ports and four 10G uplinks. The S4810 can run all 48 10Gb ports and all four 40Gb ports non-blocking over a 1.28 Tbps internal switch plane.
The S4810 is easily over subscribed if all 48 10Gb ports are in use and the traffic has to travel outside the ToR switch. The S4810 can use all four 40Gb uplinks to the core for 160 gb/s. If all 48 10Gb/s port are un use, that is a maximum oversubscription of 3.3:1. Alternatively, the S4810 can use a 1:4 optical splitter transforming a single 40Gb interface into four 10Gb interfaces when connecting to 10Gb ports on the Exascale core switch. The optical splitter lets Force10 customers migrate to 40Gb interfaces on the core switch over time.
Force10 also announced a six port 40Gb Ethernet line card for its Exascale Chassis. However, once more than two ports are used, the line card is oversubscribed due to a 100 Gb/s capacity at the line card and chassis backplane interface. The line card has two CFP port and four QSFP+ ports. When paired with the S4810, the Exascale can support 56 40Gb oversubscribed ports or 28 40Gb line rate ports. Each line card can support two 40Gb ports with full switching and routing.
Force10 is not the first to announce 40Gb interfaces in the enterprise. Extreme Networks announced 40Gb modules for its top of rack switches and line cards for its Blackdiamond chassis in April, though neither product is shipping yet. The S4810 is an interesting feat for Force10, but outside of Internet exchanges or high-performance computing shops, it's unlikely that anyone will need that much capacity any time soon. That said, Force10's announcement is in line with the ongoing evolution of Ethernet speeds. We will likely see 100Gb uplinks within the year. Brocade already announced a 100Gb/s blade for its MLXE Router. The S4810 will be available Q4 2010. The Exascale line card and 1:4 optical splitter cable will be available the 1st half of 2011. Pricing data won't be available until the product ships.