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10G Ethernet data-center switch on tap

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

By , Network World
November 06, 2007 05:02 PM ET

Network World - 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.

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.

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