10G Ethernet data-center switch on tap

Bechtolsheim-backed Arastra set to shake up 10G aggregation market with $400/port switches

Arastra, an Ethernet data center switch start-up, this week unveiled its first products: a line of switches that include a 1 rack unit chassis sporting 48 10Gbps ports at $400/port.

Data centers may not just be getting greener – they could be getting cheaper, too.

Arastra, an Ethernet data center switch start-up, this week unveiled its first products: a line of switches that include a 1 rack unit chassis sporting 48 10Gbps ports at $400/port.

The Arastra 7100 Series is designed to let users deploy 10 Gigabit Ethernet everywhere in the data center to improve server use and data-center power efficiency. Arastra claims the switch supports the highest 10 Gigabit port density – 2,016 10 Gigabit ports per 42 unit rack.

The switches are intended to be situated at the “top of rack” for server aggregation at the edge of the data center. These switches then connect to a core fabric switch for interconnection to other data-center server and storage resources.

Arastra 7100 Series

The 7100 supports wirespeed Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching with throughput as high as 960 Gbps and 714M packet/sec with submicrosecond latency, Arastra says. In a multichassis configuration, the 7100 scales to 4,096 10G ports supporting aggregate throughput of more than 80Tbps and 60 billion packet/sec.

The switches are based on Fulcrum Microsystems’ new FocalPoint FM4000 chips, which Fulcrum says are designed to enable data-center networks to scale into the thousands of nodes. Fulcrum’s technology helps Arastra offer the 7100 Series at $400 per 10Gbps port, Arastra says.

That price point is sure to boost demand for 10G Ethernet in the data center, and stir response from other “top of rack” and perhaps core fabric-switch vendors as well.

“It demonstrates that people are going to go after 10G seriously in the data center with price points that are beginning to make it make a lot of sense to start looking in that direction,” says Joe Skorupa, an analyst at Gartner. “It’s going to reset people’s expectations. There will be multiple vendors in this space with these sorts of price points for the top of rack, or for a switch that plugs into a blade chassis. But you still need someone who’s got a cost effective high density core switch.”

Woven Systems, another 10G start-up, has such a switch, Skorupa notes. Cisco does not – it helped found Nuova Systems to fill that gap, Skorupa says.

Foundry is well positioned in the core, and it may respond with 10G “top of rack” offering at similar price points, Skorupa notes. Force10, meanwhile, may be impacted the most by the Arastra announcement.

“Force10 is going to have to step up,” Skorupa says. “They’ve been there with very high-density solutions for 1G in the core switch; they’re going to need to do something with 10G and certainly price points for top of rack or aggregation switches. They are going to see some pressure as well.”

Force10 welcomes Arastra's entry.

"In general, we think innovation that encourages 10 Gigabit Ethernet adoption is great for the industry," a spokeswoman says. "And as 10 Gig adoption increases, prices will continue to fall across all vendors."

Force10 has a number of customers for its own S2410 edge switch, the spokeswoman says. The S2410, in turn, drives sales of Force10's E1200 and C300 switches as well, she notes.

"With support for 224 10G Ethernet ports in a single chassis, customers can aggregate server edge boxes such as the S2410 or Arastra's when it is available and operating in networks," the spokeswoman says.

Force10’s E1200 core switches sport 56 to 224 10Gbps ports.

Arastra’s 7100, meanwhile, supports 10 Gigabit small form-factor plugable (SFP+) optics and copper cabling, including 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, 10GBASE-LRM, 10GBASE-CR, as well as Gigabit Ethernet 1000BASE-SX, 1000BASE-LX, and 1000BASE-T. It also features front-to-back airflow, hot-swappable redundant power supplies, hot-swappable redundant cooling and dual redundant management ports, Arastra says.For congestion management, the 7100 Series includes multilane flow control and backward congestion notification.The 7100 Series runs Arastra’s Extensible Operating System (EOS), which is designed specifically for data-center networks. Arastra EOS is based on a modular protected memory architecture in which each process is monitored and restarted automatically in response to failure.Also, in-service software upgrades allow individual software components to be updated without disrupting system operation, Arastra says. EOS also includes APIs for customers looking to extend the functionality of the software.The 7100 Series includes two models: the 7124S with 24 10G SFP+ ports and the 7148S with 48 10G SFP+ ports. Both are in field trials at several sites including government laboratories and financial institutions.

Production units will be available in the first quarter of 2008.

Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Arastra was founded in 2004 to design and develop systems for large-scale data centers. The company is funded, among others, by Andy Bechtolsheim, a founder of Sun.

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