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Foundry thinks big with Gigabit ‘Mucho Grande’ switch

Apr 28, 20033 mins
Network SwitchesNetworking

Foundry Networks this week will lob the latest round in the 10G Ethernet switch battle when it debuts its BigIron MG8 and NetIron 40G chassis at NetWorld+Interop.

Foundry Networks this week will lob the latest round in the 10G Ethernet switch battle when it debuts its BigIron MG8 and NetIron 40G chassis at NetWorld+Interop.

The latest BigIron chasses are billed as Foundry’s core switch platform for the future, with a terabit-scale backplane and 40G bit/sec of bandwidth per slot. The bandwidth upgrade will let 10G Ethernet ports operate at full throughput, which was not possible on the vendor’s previous platform.

Developed under the code name Mucho Grande, the BigIron MG8 is an eight-slot enterprise chassis targeted for large core backbone deployments and metropolitan-area networks deployments. New four-port 10G Ethernet blades also will be announced for the MG8, allowing for a total of 32 nonblocking 10G bit/sec Ethernet ports in a single chassis, according to Foundry.

Analysts say adoption of Gigabit Ethernet has been slow – 10G Ethernet accounted for 1% of the Ethernet market in the fourth quarter of 2002, Synergy Research says. But corporations with intense bandwidth demands should look to platforms such as the MG8 for future network deployments.

“Few companies need 10 Gigabit Ethernet,” says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with The Yankee Group. “But if you’re investing in new switching gear now, there’s no sense buying a platform that can’t support 10G Ethernet, because it’s coming down the road.”

The box will compete with recently announced 10 Gigabit gear from Enterasys Networks, with its Matrix N-Series chassis, and Cisco’s Supervisor 720 switch fabric module for the Catalyst 6500. The Cisco and Enterasys products promise 40G bit/sec of bandwidth between line cards and the backplane, allowing for full 10G bit/sec. Like Foundry, Cisco and Enterasys had offered 10G Ethernet line cards, but were limited to performance less than 10G bit/sec because of chassis/switch fabric limitations. Start-up Force10 Networks released a switch last fall that offers 40G bit/sec per slot.

The NetIron 40G, a service provider box, also has eight slots, 40G bit/sec of slot bandwidth and a terabit backplane like its enterprise cousin. The 40G also includes carrier features, such as enhanced Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing and a Network Equipment Building Standards Level 3 chassis. The BigIron MG8 and NetIron 40G switches support Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching and Routing Information Protocol Version 2, Open Shortest Path First and BGP routing protocols.

Kerravala says that while the BigIron MG products were a long time coming, the release is significant for Foundry.

“Companies like Force10 made all the other vendors sit up and take notice,” he says. “Foundry isn’t a solutions provider – they’re a switch company. They’re goal is to build the best switch, so its important to have this kind of product.”