Foundry readies monster Ethernet switch

Plus: Nortel targets application acceleration; 3Com, Avaya roll out new wares.

At Interop this week, products from Foundry and Nortel are expected to take their shots at Cisco, F5 and others in the WAN routing, application acceleration, and data center switching arenas while Avaya and 3Com will launch gear designed to bolster customers' VoIP and security implementations.

At Interop this week, products from Foundry and Nortel are expected to take their shots at Cisco, F5 and others in the WAN routing, application acceleration, and data center switching arenas while Avaya and 3Com will launch gear designed to bolster customers’ VoIP and security implementations.


Slideshow: Take a closer look at Foundry's monster Ethernet switch


Observers say Foundry's big swing — a 5-terabit, 128-port 10G Ethernet switch — could be a knockout blow to Force10, Extreme and startup Woven Systems, in high-end data center switching. At the show Foundry will launch its biggest-yet Ethernet switch — the BigIron RX32 — aimed at ultra high-density enterprise data centers, and carrier networks. The box supports up to 128 line-rate 10G Ethernet ports; twice the amount of its previous BigIron RX16, and more than double currently shipping high-end gear such as Force10's TeraScale, Cisco's Catalyst 6500 and Extreme's BlackDiamond. (only Woven Systems's EFS 1000 scales higher, to 144 10G ports).

"Customers have come to us, historically, because we've sold the biggest, baddest boxes," says Foundry CEO Bobby Johnson, calling the RX32 the new head of the company's high-end switch family.

At almost $200,000 for just the RX32 chassis (no line cards), the BigIron RX32's market may be select, but it is growing, Johnson says.

"There are a lot of customers who do need this level of performance, scalability and port density," he says, such as large university campus LAN backbones, enterprises involved with data mining, as well as research networks doing high-performance computing and clustering.

In courting theses types of customers with its high-end switch, Foundry hopes to gain some headway in the 10G Ethernet market, where it has fallen behind Cisco and Force10 in terms of shipments and revenue, according to research from the Dell'Oro group.

Nortel's enterprise push

Meanwhile, Nortel's entry into application acceleration, and its new combo WAN router/VoIP platform, will be more like jabs and feints at market leaders such as Cisco, Juniper, F5 and Citrix.

Nortel is making its anticipated entry into the unified WAN/VoIP router and application acceleration markets at Interop. Nortel's Secure Router 4134, part of the company's joint development deal with Microsoft, and will include integrated software allowing the box to act as a remote-office gateway for Microsoft's forthcoming Office Communication Server (OCS) VoIP, messaging and collaboration server. The blade, due later this year, will act as a gateway to a centrally-hosted OCS server, and not as a stand-alone version of OCS running on the router.

Another optional blade, due later this year, will let companies run a local version of Nortel's Communication Server 1000 IP PBX server inside the router. This blade would synchronize with a centrally hosted CS 1000 server, and provide the branch with local VoIP features, call control and public switched telephone network (PSTN) connectivity in case of a WAN link failure, or central CS 1000 failure.

In addition to the two forthcoming, specialized blades, the Secure Router 4134 also combines Nortel's Contivity VPN and firewall technology, with its Tasman-based WAN router platform, as well as integrated LAN switching options for branch offices.

Nortel is also entering the Web application acceleration market at Interop with the launch of its Nortel Application Accelerator 510 and 610 appliances. These devices, indented to compete with Web accelerators from F5, Citrix/Netscaler, Radware and others, would sit in front of a bank of Web servers and provide data compression, protocol offload and content caching. This could allow a pool of servers providing Web access to SAP, Microsoft Outlook, IBM WebSphere, or other platforms, to operate as much as 20 times faster, Nortel claims.

However, one analyst says vendors in the acceleration market have already escalated the technology far beyond what Nortel is bringing to the fight.

"The enterprise application acceleration market has grown by leaps and bounds," says Yankee Group Analyst Zeus Kerravala, as companies such as F5, Citrix, Juniper and others have acquired or developed advanced technologies and long lists of customers. "Nortel should have had this vision a couple years ago; it will be going up against competitors that have at least a one or two-year lead."

Kerravala says Nortel's Secure Router, with integrated VoIP and services, may also fall short against Cisco's dominant ISR platform, which has about 90% of the market.

"It may help protect Nortel's installed base against" Cisco and Juniper, Kerravala says, "but it won't grow Nortel's [router] installed base."

The Secure Router 4134 starts at $10,500; The Application Accelerator 510 costs $29,000, and the 610 module is $40,000.

Voice, security for the little guy

Also launching at the show is small/branch office IP telephony and intrusion prevention/detection system (IPS/IDS) gear from Avaya and 3Com. 3Com is introducing its X5 and X506 appliances, which combine 3Com's VPN and firewall technologies with IPS/IDS packet inspection features from its TippingPoint subsidiary. The devices are targeted at small and midsize businesses and organizations looking to tightly control traffic flows into and out of a campus network.

Schools are a big customer base for 3Com, and a market that requires fine-grained security and Web site blocking features. The Collinsville, Ill., Community Unit School District is such a place. A 3Com X506 sits in the school's data center, which connects 12 locations connected by fiber, and uplinks to a 25Mbps Internet connection, provided by the state. All traffic leaving and entering the network is scrubbed by the X506, which uses TippingPoint's Digital Vaccine — an annual service that provides updates to the device on the most recent malware and worm signatures and behavior patterns.

This helps tame some of the unruly behavior that can happen on a school network with more than 7,000 users.

When the schools technology reseller installed the X506, "they said we had one of the biggest infestations of spyware they had ever seen," says Susan Homes, IS director for the district. "This device helps us clean up the problem by not allowing [spyware] to propagate," through the network.

The X506 supports up to 50Mbps of IDS/IPS traffic and more than 1,000 VPN tunnels, while the X5 supports 18Mbps IDS/IPS and 50 VPN users.

Avaya is reaching out to corporate branch offices with its Distributed Office i40 and i120 appliances. The boxes are designed to run in small, distributed branch offices, such as national retail chains, or banks or enterprise regional offices. The appliances provide complete call control, features, voice mail and auto attendant functions to a branch, but can be centrally controlled from a corporate headquarters site via management software.

Each device supports either PSTN or IP-based Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks to a telephone carrier or VoIP service provider. SIP support on the boxes also allows users to interact with employees at other branches and throughout the enterprise with features such as presence and IM, as well as voice and conferencing, Avaya says. On the headquarters side, Avaya's SIP Enablement Server is required to provide site-to-site management and features. However, an Avaya Communications Manager IP PBX is not required centrally. The i40 supports up to 40 users, includes an integrated eight-port 10/100Mbps Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch. The i120 supports up to 120 users and includes a 40-port 10/100Mbps PoE switch. The systems start at around $350 per user.

Observers say Foundry's big swing — a 5-terabit, 128-port 10G Ethernet switch — could be a knockout blow to Force10, Extreme and startup Woven Systems, in high-end data center switching. At the show Foundry will launch its biggest-yet Ethernet switch — the BigIron RX32 — aimed at ultra high-density enterprise data centers, and carrier networks. The box supports up to 128 line-rate 10G Ethernet ports; twice the amount of its previous BigIron RX16, and more than double currently shipping high-end gear such as Force10's TeraScale, Cisco's Catalyst 6500 and Extreme's BlackDiamond. (only Woven Systems's EFS 1000 scales higher, to 144 10G ports).

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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