100G, SDN leaving older switches behind

HP, Juniper encourage wholesale upgrades for the data center; will Cisco/Insieme do the same?

Unlike Juniper core switching customers, HP users can still expect some significant upgrades to their older switches even though HP unveiled two new platforms for the data center last week. HP plans to equip the four-year-old 12500 data center core switch with 40G Ethernet before the end of the year.

Juniper is capping hardware development on its five-year-old EX8200 and encouraging customers to replace it - chassis and all - with the EX9200 for 40G, 100G, SDN programmability, etc. There is no backward or forward compatibility between the EX8200 and EX9200.

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Nor is there with HP's 12500 and the new 12900, or between the 10500 campus core and distribution switch and the new 11900 data center aggregation switch.  

"Modules for the 12900 and the 12500 are not interchangeable," states Mike Banic, vice president of marketing for HP Networking in an e-mailed response to Network World. "Technology has evolved in the four years since the 12500 was introduced, enabling HP to deliver new benchmark setting switch capacity and 40 GbE port density."

Banic says both switches, however share the same architecture, operating systems and management, something he says Cisco cannot claim with its Catalyst 6500 and Nexus 7000 switches. Both the 12900 and 12500 have a Clos/virtual output queue architecture; both run Comware OS software for feature and functional consistency; and both, along with all of HP's FlexNetwork products, are managed by the company's Intelligent Management Center system.

"This is a stark contrast to the Nexus introduction which has a different architecture, OS and management from the Catalyst 6500," Banic said.

And recent trends in networking, like mobility, virtualization and cloud, have made forklift upgrades inevitable and perhaps a non-issue.

"I don't think it's a factor in network designs when we consider virtualization, mobility, cloud, or internet of things," says Andre Kindness of Forrester Research. "There are too many changes to hold on to old components or architectures."

The two-year-old 10500, meanwhile, currently supports up to 96 40G Ethernet ports. HP plans to also equip the switch with 100G interfaces though the company did not divulge a timeline for doing so.

The new 12900 and 11900 switches will gain 100G capabilities next year, HP says.

Cisco is also believed to be developing a new switching platform -- through its Insieme Networks spin-in -- for 100G programmable networks. The compatibility with previous generation Nexus and Catalyst platforms is unknown at this time.

Competitor Arista Networks says users of its earlier generation 7500 chassis-based core data center switch can mix those line cards with the new 7500E modules, and that 7500E supervisors and fabrics are optional upgrades for 7500 customers.

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