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New Dell switch ready to scale for clouds and large data centres

02 Jun 14

Get ready for extreme rack density, says Dell.

Clouds are getting bigger, data centres need greater connectivity, and switches must grow to match today’s east-west and north-south traffic requirements.

Enter the Dell Networking Z9500 Fabric Switch, which the company calls the highest-density fixed form factor switch available today.

How dense? The Z9500 switch is expandable up to 132 40GbE ports or 528 10GbE ports. That’s a lot of connectivity in only 3U.

Not only that, says Dell, but the Z9500 consumes only half the electricity, per port, of competing products like the Cisco Nexus 6004.

Dell’s networking group previewed the Z9500 at the NetEvents Cloud Innovation Summit. I was impressed by the audacity of the technology – as well as the vision of a superscaling data centre that needs to keep up with Moore’s Law.

“By 2016, rack density with 25x what it is today,” predicts Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product management for Dell Networking.

Joshipura points out that despite the growth in the number of mobile devices connecting to the cloud, the bulk of data centre traffic will continue be east-west, driven by applications like Hadoop, visual desktops and load balancers.

“Even user-facing transactions have a lot of east-west traffic to provision services, gather data, and move stuff back and forth, he says.

“It’s only a little bit of north-south traffic between client and server.” Thus, the need for huge switches like the Z9500. Density matters.

This type of traffic growth is also driving Dell’s new Active Fabric Controller, which is purpose-built software for zero-touch provisioning and orchestration of virtualised networking functions and services.

The Active Fabric Controller is designed to provide workload and policy-based management for OpenStack-based SDN networks.

Dell’s new switch and SDN management software are part of the company’s Dell Networks division, which evolved out of its acquisition of Force10 Networks in mid-2011. Force10 had established itself as a strong player in network automation and network virtualisation.

Today, Dell sits in both #3 in 10GbE and 40GbE Ethernet switching, according to the Dell’Oro Group.

These announcements show that Dell continues to compete effectively not only against its long-time rival HP for enterprise computing, but to make new inroads against Cisco and other traditional network equipment vendors.

By Alan Zeichick - Dell