Enterasys Takes Half-Step to Software-Defined Datacenter

Datacenter networking and infrastructure management vendor Enterasys has rolled out a set of new networking and management products it’s pitching as a way to connect all datacenter components to a single fabric managed by policy rather than by hand.

The package includes a new series of top-of-rack and midrange switches with a wider variety of connection options—but the selling point for Enterasys are software enhancements designed to take Enterasys’ datacenter fabric and management products one step closer to a software-defined datacenter (SDDC).

The switches include the new 7100 series of stackable, top-of-rack switches with 1.28Tbit/sec of total throughput with 64 ports running 10Gbit/sec or 40Gbit/sec Ethernet. Updated switches in Enterasys’ S-series, which can serve as central switches for campus networks or as core switches closer to the datacenter, rise in capacity to 2.56Tbit/sec with as many as 264 ports for 10Gbit/sec, 10Gbase-T or 40Gbit/sec Ethernet connections.

The S-series switches include software updates to support Shortest Path Bridging, an IEEE standard designed to make connections among dissimilar systems or networks more efficient by taking into account the performance characteristics of each connection and load-balance traffic flow among all the paths in a mesh network.

Both the S-series and 7100-series switches also gained support for Data Center Bridging, which is designed to manage datacenter connections, converging I/O flows for many datacenter systems including SAN and Fibre Channel. The new7100 series uses Broadcom ASICs, but the S- and K-series use Enterasys’ custom-spun ASIC chips (CoreFlow2), which are designed in-house in order to maximize performance with other Enterasys products and to classify users, devices and applications according to either role or network topology and enforce access control, quality of service or security policies without affecting the flow of data.

“A lot of the industry has gone to packet-level processing in their switches,” according to John Hanahan, vice president of product management at Enterasys. “Having our own ASIC allows for a lot of scale and for deep visibility and control [using Enterasys management applications] based on aspects of flow. It delivers 96 million flows at line rate without impacting performance and provide visibility all the way up to Layer 7.”

Enterasys also added support for dynamic configuration, management and switching for virtual servers based on hypervisors from all three major virtualization vendors: VMware, Citrix Systems and Microsoft.

The switches are tied in to Enterasys’ OneFabric datacenter mesh-network fabric and its Data Center Manager product. Used together, the Enterasys product set is designed to give datacenter managers centralized control of data flows, create, reconfigure or collapse virtual switches and automate the provisioning, location and lifecycle of new services within the datacenter.

Analysts have criticized Enterasys for the single-vendor approach to datacenter networking, a charge that Enterasys rejects.

Enterasys claims that, while it supports all the major networking and datacenter standards, it uses its own to offer better convergence, more control over performance and the ability to simplify datacenter and network topologies without limitations created by protocols designed for one-size-fits-all applicability. The end result may not equal the full capabilities of a software-defined-datacenter (PDF)—which are similar to the automation and management functions of cloud platforms, based inside corporate datacenters rather than external service provider facilities, and which must support legacy applications and hardware cloud services are able to ignore.

Like its competitors, Enterasys is moving in that direction, according to Hanahan. Its customers are moving far more slowly, however. Recent studies show half of IT managers polled don’t know much about software-defined networks, though 56 percent are interested in adding one at some point this year. As for the more complex and comprehensive software-defined datacenter (SDDC)—well, that didn’t even make the list of top-five technologies to be implemented during the next 12 months.

 

Image: Dabarti CGI/Shutterstock.com

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