Enterasys looks to head off Cisco, Brocade data center plans

Leverages policy-based switches for virtualized environments

Enterasys, the networking division of Siemens Enterprise Communications, this week unveiled it data center strategy, which hinges on partnerships and multivendor inclusion as well as the policy-based management capabilities of its switches.

100G Ethernet cheat sheet

Indeed, the Enterasys strategy is built on the capabilities of its switches to provide visibility into and automation of data center networking operations support business applications and virtualization hypervisors from multiple vendors. This is in contrast to vendors like Cisco that optimize capabilities around their own servers and the products of a select group of application, hypervisor and storage partners.

Enterasys will flesh out in coming quarters with a series of hardware, software and partnership announcements designed to provide customers with a "vendor agnostic" data center networking strategy. The company plans to support multiple virtualization vendors, including Citrix, Microsoft and VMware; and multiple server and storage vendors, including Dell, HP and IBM.

Enterasys plans to let customers use the management visibility and control capabilities of its S-series switches, along with the policy-based operational model of the devices that is intended to automate many processes, and allocate priority access and appropriate bandwidth to specific business applications.

This is Enterasys' differentiator, analysts say.

"They've been doing policy-based security for years," says Steve Schuchart of Current Analysis. "Their policy (templates) are much more easy to deal with than that of their competitors. That's been their advantage for a long time."

Other than that, the Enterasys data center networking plan looks pretty much the same as its switching competitors, Schuchart says.

The S-series switches have been recently enhanced to eliminate the need to associate network policies to specific switch ports, Enterasys says. Those enhancements let any application running on any server be dynamically authenticated and assigned policies that are used for prioritization, QoS, bandwidth allocation and access control, regardless of the switch port it is connected to.

This eliminates the need for network administrators to associate physical switch connectivity and applications, Enterasys says. It is similar to the virtual machine profile mapping capabilities announced by Cisco and Brocade in their converged data center plans and strategies.

Enterasys says its S-series switches can also automate the operating and configuration of physical and virtual switches within the data center. This ostensibly allows the network administrator to control the operating of software-based virtual switches resident on servers with the data center.

Enterasys says it will comply with emerging IEEE standards for vSwitch/physical switch interaction – standards that address offloading particular functions to physical switches and enabling virtual port aggregation, among other capabilities.

The S-series switches scale from 48 to 576 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and from four to 128 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. And like its competitors, Enterasys claims the switch architecture is "ready" for 40G Ethernet and "future proofed" for 100G Ethernet.

The switches support a 1.28Tbps switch fabric today, scalable more than 6Tbps in the future, the company says. Layer 3 latency is less than 10 microseconds, and packet buffers are greater than 2GB per I/O slot.

In combination with the Enterasys switch management system, the S-series platforms feature embedded connection policy control and real-time connection and application analytics, Enterasys says. This enables the switches to automatically respond to reprovisioned servers, the company says.

The management system enables integration with third-party VM management and workflow systems to provide such functions as enforcement of VM-specific security policies, Enterasys says.

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